Earlier this year Wayne Clamp retired as senior manager at LeedsWatch. During a career that spanned more than 30 years he witnessed CCTV coverage in Leeds grow from a handful of cameras to a system that stretches across West Yorkshire -one of the biggest integrated networks in the UK. Leedswatch’s partnership with icomply has been a part of Wayne’s story and an integral part of the improvements that have taken place in the last few years.
These days LeedsWatch looks after 1000 CCTV cameras that cover Leeds city centre; local communities; council estates; and even includes bus stations across West Yorkshire. In the early 1980s, it was a different story. Safety and security of public spaces was attracting the attention of local councils. However, many local and national politicians thought CCTV belonged to the realms of science fiction, whilst others drew comparisons with George Orwell’s Big Brother.
When Wayne joined Leeds City Council in 1983 it was introducing a new security service – but CCTV was not up for discussion. One of the new services was Parks Patrols in local parks across Leeds that the council introduced as a way to prevent vandalism and anti-social behaviour. Wayne joined the scheme and within two years had become its manager.
It quickly grew to include mobile security patrols for council buildings, a keyholding service and included a team responding to alarms going off at night or weekends. As Wayne’s team grew, it introduced more services. One of these was static guards in multi-storey blocks of flats where residents were experiencing anti-social behaviour. His team also introduced portable security alarms in empty properties –radio-linked to a control room. Wayne told us “The approach we took [with alarms] was in many ways a precursor of our approach when we went on to set up CCTV monitoring.” An engineering section was set up to install and service the Council systems.
By the mid 1990s, some local authorities were already experimenting with CCTV. Leeds – the second largest metropolitan council in England- was falling behind. It was not until 1996 when the city was a host venue for Euro 96 that the council decided to introduce CCTV.
Wayne was headhunted to lead the team that installed the first 20 cameras, covering main roads and car parks in the city centre. Another 10 cameras soon followed in the Chapeltown and Harehills areas. Before long the Urban Traffic Control network and CCTV from the city’s newly redeveloped waterfront joined the matrix.
In the early 2000s, the government offered grants for councils to extend CCTV. Leeds responded by installing cameras in district town centres across the city. Some local councillors -converts to CCTV- lobbied and funded cameras in their communities. In ten years Wayne’s team had seen the number of CCTV cameras in Leeds grow from a handful to more than 200 and led to Wayne now earning his own nickname: ‘Mr CCTV.’
By the mid 2000s, the CCTV service was part of Safer Leeds, the community safety partnership between Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police. Wayne’s team became LeedsWatch, a name it maintains to this day.
Building on this success Leedswatch introduced in 2004 two mobile CCTV vans to work the Police targeting crime and anti social behaviour.
Expansion of the service continued and led to an increased number of control rooms from one in the city centre to three. Even though Wayne’s team used an integrated network via a COE Telecommand System savings were possible by creating a single control centre. In 2009, Leedswatch opened a new joint control room in south Leeds in partnership with The West Yorkshire Passenger Executive (Metro). This added more cameras from every bus station in West Yorkshire to Wayne’s portfolio – 150 in total. This coincided with the development of digital technology. Analogue recording systems were becoming obsolete, and associated hardware became increasingly difficult to obtain. Digital recording was efficient, cheaper to run and made information easier to share. Replacing every camera in the city would have been expensive, so a new approach was needed.
Wayne told us “I was very specific about what we were looking for. We needed something that could bring together different systems through a GUI (Graphical Interface System) that was easy to use.” The company who won the recording part of contract was working with icomply who were able to meet Wayne’s ‘exacting needs.’
icomply was able to offer solutions to that challenges Leedswatch faced when bringing together a range of different systems. Different organisations had developed their own different systems that met their own unique needs. This meant that the team in the new control centre had to be able to monitor video streams coming in from different types of camera, each with their own idiosyncrasies, which could be just around the corner or up to 30 miles away and needed to be able to talk to each other. VTAS pro – icomply’s control room software- provided a platform that brought together diverse video feeds, from digital and analogue cameras into an integrated front-end monitoring arrangement. This made the lives of control centre staff much simpler as VTAS pro was the only software that they needed to learn and use. In addition icomply’s integration technology prevented the waste of a significant amount of public funds. Wayne told us ‘the costs involved with replacing every camera would have run to millions and meant throwing away perfectly good hardware we could still make use of.’
We asked Wayne to share any memorable moments from his career He told us about an incident during the winter of 2009/10 – the coldest and snowiest in a generation. A woman on one of the city’s council estates collapsed in her garden wearing only a dressing gown and nightclothes. One of the CCTV operatives spotted her, raised an alarm with the emergency services and guided them through a snowstorm to where she was lying. Without this help, the chances are that she would have died from hypothermia. This resulted in the CCTV operative receiving a national humanitarian award.
The service that Wayne joined back in 1983– Leeds Parks Patrol – was still in existence as he retired and, along with the Council’s security section, joined LeedsWatch. It just goes to show that in Wayne’s’ world the saying is true – that what goes around comes around.
Written by John Devine