A Gwynedd town’s network of CCTV cameras run by local volunteers has had its biggest success when it tracked a thief stealing £38,000 of goods from a Barmouth business.
It is just one of the crime-fighting triumphs that has turned the seaside resort into one of the most law-abiding in North Wales.
The 48 ‘eyes in the sky’ run by Gwarchod Bermo Watch have seen crime detection in the town rise by 70 per cent and attracted a £2,500 grant from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
He visited the town at the height of the holiday season to see just how well the scheme is operating and to speak to the volunteers who run it and local police officers for whom it has become an important tool of the job.
That recent success saw a thief who stole £38,000 from a Barmouth business caught on film making off with his haul, identified and brought to court where he received a jail sentence.
Gwarchod Bermo Watch founder Deana Davies Fisher, from Talybont, said:
“We picked him up on camera making numerous trips up and down an alley carrying bags and putting them in his car.
“Because of that we were able to identify him, the police brought him to justice and he was sent to prison.”
Earlier this year Gwarchod Bermo Watch was voted one of the Gwynedd winners in the Police Commissioner’s Your Community Your Choice awards which earned the scheme that cash prize.
Arfon Jones, a former police inspector who is from just down the road in Harlech, said:
“I’m very impressed with what is being done here in Barmouth and the effect it is having to make it a safer place.
“This was money well spent because it’s a great example of a community helping itself rather than relying on the authorities to do everything for them.
“I would like to thank Deana and the other volunteers for the often unsung work they do to make Barmouth a safer place for residents and visitors alike.
“It sends a strong message out to criminals that if they commit a crime in Barmouth there’s a very good chance they will be caught and it reassures people and reduces their fear of crime.
“We should be encouraging more towns to follow their example because it is a massive deterrent and the vast majority of crimes are committed because the opportunity is there and this is an example of how to reduce those opportunities.”
Deana, who runs a hairdressing and body-piercing business in the town, said:
“We began the scheme in 2005 and we have had a lot of support from the town council who play a major part in financing it.
“The cameras have been very effective because there used to be more trouble late at night but people soon became aware of them and in terms of crime Barmouth only has one way in and out for vehicles so they’re covered by the cameras.
“We now have 48 cameras in the town and many of them are HD so the quality is very good.
“We usually hear from the victim of a crime and we put them in touch with the police and once we have a time frame for the incident then we can check the cameras and although it can be a lot of work it is very successful.
“As the system is very expensive to maintain it’s a constant challenge to find the money to finance it, so that’s why the money from Your Community Your Choice came as a large and very welcome boost to us.”
Police Community Support Officer Sian Davies said: “It certainly makes our job easier and deters criminals.
“We would be lost without them now because we can use them to deal with everything from road traffic accidents to shoplifting, car offences and assaults and you can actually track people through the town.
“Usually in the summer the crime rate increases in Barmouth and there are more people about we don’t know but we’ve had a very good summer for tourism and we’ve seen less crime.”
The grant to Gwarchod Bermo Watch was one of 14 grants totalling almost £40,000 handed out by the Commissioner as part of the Your Community, Your Choice initiative which is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018.
Much of the cash handed out to deserving causes has been recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The scheme is aimed at organisations who pledge to run projects to tackle anti-social behaviour and combat crime and disorder in line with the priorities in Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.
Arfon Jones added: I am delighted that my Your Community Your Choice fund continues to support community projects across north Wales for a sixth consecutive year.
“Delivering Safer Neighbourhoods is one of my key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and I am delighted at the way Gwarchod Bermo Watch has developed such an impressive project that support this Plan.”