Public recruited to be ‘eyes and ears’ for police in six Suffolk towns
Members of the public could become the “eyes and ears” of their communities as volunteer crime busters.
Six towns and villages will take part in initial trials for the Local Policing Volunteer scheme – Bungay, Beccles, Eye, Stanton, Long Melford and Woodbridge.
Each will take on four volunteers to help report crime as soon as April, with the scheme assessed and evaluated in August.
If successful, it could be rolled out to the rest of the county.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore said the roles were part of his manifesto promise to increase the volunteer involvement with the constabulary.
“It’s about getting that information,” said Mr Passmore.
“It’s a good example of communities helping themselves.”
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Mr Passmore said selected areas had shown an interest in supporting the force over the past year, adding that Woodbridge had not featured on the original list, but that recent enthusiasm in the town had led to its inclusion.
The scheme will work in a similar way to the ‘Volunteers on Horseback’ scheme, which asks riders to report anything suspicious they see while riding.
The volunteers will wear special tabards and have access to police stations, where they can report crimes.
Mr Passmore said the volunteers would not be given specific briefs, but the emphasis would be on them being the “eyes and ears” in their local area.
Money for the project will come from existing training budgets, but Mr Passmore admitted that if the project expands, new areas of funding may need to be found.
Karen Harris, specials and volunteers manager for Suffolk Constabulary, said the roles would become embedded in the community.
“Quite often, people don’t report crime because they don’t want to bother police,” she said.
“We want people to be empowered.”
Darren Harris, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, said the organisation would prefer warranted officers going into communities but, in the current financial climate, understood it was not possible, and that it would be supporting the scheme.
“The role they will fulfil is vital in wider policing,” he said.
Ipswich’s Labour MP Sandy Martin said: “I support anything that encourages ordinary people to be more engaged in keeping law and order in their communities. It’s something Suffolk people are very good at – but many are frustrated there are not enough police to react quickly and make arrests when crime is reported.
“We already have neighbourhood watch, special constables and a responsive population. Whet we really need are more police resources.”
There are currently more than 38,000 people working in more than 200 different volunteering roles across 43 forces.
Local councillors in the selected areas have also been reacting to the news of the new volunteer scheme.
Woodbridge recently held a meeting with Inspector Andy Pursehouse after a number of break- ins and burglaries in the area.
“I think its a brilliant idea, said Woodbridge mayor Clare Perkins, “I am quite keen to see this through.”
She added that thought it would be a perfect role for those who want to still help the community but were perhaps retired from working life.
John Nunn, the district councillor for Long Melford and Alpheton said that he and fellow councillor Richard Kemp had recently been in meetings with Tim Passmore about what could be done in the area and that he would now be applying to become a volunteer himself after hearing about the scheme.
“I am very pleased with that,” said Mr Nunn. “I think we have rising levels of anti-social behaviour. Not only in Long Melford but in the area more generally.”