CCTV cameras locate hundreds of missing people in North Devon


CCTV - Credit: Archant

As well as preventing and helping solve thousands of crimes, CCTV cameras have also found more than 800 missing people in North Devon.

CAMERAS in Barnstaple and Ilfracombe have helped locate more than 800 missing people in nearly 15 years.

Figures obtained by the Gazette show the CCTV centre has been responsible for locating 841 people since 1997.

Last year the cameras, which are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, located 213 missing people, and in 2011 located 176.

A spokesman for the CCTV centre said cases ranged from missing children in Barnstaple town centre to concerns for people’s welfare issued by the police.

He said: “We have links through the radio with all the shops on the High Street and the police so the cases we’ve helped in are really varied.

“More often than not, we’ll get a call from the shops to say they’ve got either a little child on its own, or frantic parents who have lost their child.

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“I would say in 99 per cent of those cases we reunite the parents and child with each other within five-to-10 minutes and without having to call the police.”

Sergeant Paul Jones, the neighbourhood beat team leader for Barnstaple, said the CCTV was an invaluable tool for officers when dealing with missing persons cases.

“The operators will spot straight away if there is a young child walking around on their own,” he said.

“For some of the more high risk missing people we deal with, we might be looking for a vehicle or have a description of a person we’re searching for.

“The CCTV is always there for us, and it’s an invaluable tool.”

The centre has more than 100 cameras around Barnstaple and Ilfracombe and employs six staff members.

Last year the service, which is funded by North Devon Council, cost £280,000 to run.

Council leader Brian Greenslade, said it was expensive but called it a ‘valuable asset’ of the council.

He said: “I think the involvement with missing persons is a tangent a lot of people wouldn’t think about; many people just think it’s ‘Big Brother’ spying on them.”

As well as helping locate missing people, it also plays an important role for the police in keeping Barnstaple town centre safe.

Sgt Jones said: “It’s not just about solving crime but about giving us the early heads up before a crime is committed, especially within the night time economy.

“If there is what looks like a fight breaking out, they let us know so we can get there before an incident occurs.

“Crime is down by 30 per cent in the town centre so far this year and the CCTV operators have a big part to play in that.”

Cllr Greenslade said he believed the CCTV had probably had an input in around 5,500 arrests in the 15 years it had been running.

He added: “We are very interested in community safety and if it’s helping to keep North Devon safe, it is a valuable asset to us.

“Of course the cost issue is always present but there are no plans to do away with it.”

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