Hadleigh: Police stress importance of volunteer patrols in wake of April Jones disappearance

A POLICE inspector has told of the importance of community volunteers patrolling the streets of Suffolk, particularly in light of cases such as the abduction and suspected murder of Welsh schoolgirl April Jones.

Speaking at the launch of the latest Streetwatch scheme in Hadleigh, Insp Paul Crick said initiatives of this kind were “vital” for making communities feel safer.

Streetwatch schemes are run by residents and are designed to empower people to take ownership of their public spaces. Volunteers wearing high-visibility vests patrol streets in their neighbourhood and report anything suspicious back to police. Ten volunteers have signed up for the Hadleigh scheme, which is the third of its kind in the Babergh area.

Insp Crick said: “The schemes are run by local people who know their area and their neighbours and it’s about providing a level of security. For example, if you are a young mum and you see someone patrolling past a school in a high-visibility jacket, you would automatically feel safer.

“The aim is to give people ownership of the schemes in their neighbourhood, and when you see the number of local people who got behind the search for April Jones, it makes you realise just how important that sense of community can be when it comes to preventing or solving crimes.”

A Streetwatch scheme in Sudbury has grown considerably since it began earlier this year. Volunteers sign up to patrol for a minimum of two hours each month but most end up devoting more time. Ex-police officer and magistrate Carolyn Cammack is one of the new Hadleigh Streetwatch team. She said: “I was keen to get involved because I saw it as a way of doing something for my community after retirement.”

Pc Matt Paisley, who has pushed for the scheme in Hadleigh, said: “When people mention the big society and getting volunteers involved, people think it’s policing on the cheap. But you can see how willing people are to support and back initiatives like Streetwatch in their own towns.”