December 12 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 27, 2013
A man who has been watching the comings and goings in Great Yarmouth for 12 years starts his retirement this week, satisfied with a job well done.
Community Safety, CCTV operations manager John Pond has worked in the town centre CCTV control room since the system was set up in 2001.
John explained: “At the time, Yarmouth was the one of the biggest towns in the country that didn’t have a CCTV system.”
And it was only able to start after getting a grant from the Home Office, though today it is partially funded by local businesses, including Market Gates Shopping Centre.
CCTV in Yarmouth began with only 25 cameras but has since grown to 63, with all the video recorded and is manned by a team of six who monitor the images 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
The images recorded have helped police make over 7,500 arrests and has assisted with 1,200 missing persons cases, a figure that John believes that “on that strength alone, CCTV is worth it”.
He said: “If it wasn’t for CCTV, criminals might not have been caught. It’s made Yarmouth a safer place and a securer place to be.”
But it all began for ex-police officer John in King’s Lynn in 1989, he had transferred there in 1973 from the Metropolitan Police which he had joined in 1966, while in King’s Lynn, he noticed a problem which just wouldn’t go away.
He said: “The town suffered a lot of crime in car parks. But at the end of the first year, after installing a CCTV system, it reduced crime by 98pc.
“That in a way really started the CCTV system across the country. I think people realised putting up cameras help - it’s not the answer to everything but it can get some great results.
“And what I have been doing is a continuation of what I was doing as a policeman.”
John forged ahead and was involved in starting schemes in Huddersfield, Wakefield and on the Isle of Wight and also helped to install the scheme in Lowestoft in the late 1990s, before creating Yarmouth’s “CCTV” camera system.
“At the time I was living in Wroxham and it was the right time to settle down. It meant I could reduce the amount I drove,” added John.
Soon after deciding to stay, John noticed another problem - the lack of support for camera operators and he set up the Norfolk CCTV User Group.
“I was concerned with the lack of organisation in place to support those that operate the CCTV camera. Back then, for example, there was no training as we didn’t know about it at the time. Nowadays though, operators have to be trained.
“You can have pictures coming in but if the operator doesn’t know what to do with them, then the emergency services can’t be called.”
Today John has become a vital member of the team and one who, according to Town Centre Manager Jonathan Newman, will be missed in the office.
“John was here when I arrived and was supportive and helpful. His crime reduction work has made him an asset to a lot of people in the town - many people in Yarmouth have called upon him for support,” said Mr Newman.
“He’s a senior figure in the office, the guy with the sensible approach, a strong influence not just to me but to the team.
“He’s always a good sounding board - and I’ll miss that he’s always here before I am!”
Last week John had a special set of visitors as both Chief Constable Simon Bailey and Deputy Charlie Hall said their thanks and goodbyes.
John recalled: “Strangely enough, Simon and I were policemen at the same time in King’s Lynn, so he’s just Simon to me, while Charlie helped me find the right places for the cameras to go in Yarmouth.
“It was nice to get recognition for what I did and for the system - because our main customer is the police.”
With wife Jane, John still calls Wroxham home, and having turned 65 on Wednesday, he plans on spending a lot more time in his garden and indulge his passion for steam engines.
“Time has come for someone else to take over the great system and great team which will produce results.”