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How volunteers help create safe, resilisent and connected communities

In her recent blog, Alison highlights the amazing work of Devon and Cornwall Police volunteers and celebrates Volunteers Week 2018.

This week saw the start of the annual Volunteers’ Week – a full week when we can celebrate the contribution made by those prepared to give their time and effort to making the communities in which they live, work and play that little bit better for us all.

We have a huge number of people volunteering in all kinds of roles across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and I want to take this opportunity to thank them all for everything they do to create safe, resilient, connected communities.

In our Police and Crime Plan, Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer and I made a commitment to champion the development of volunteering in local policing – to help local people play an active role in keeping their community safe. This is being delivered through the police’s Citizens in Policing programme which has helped to develop, support and promote a number of police support volunteer roles which work alongside officers and staff. From vehicle check volunteers, who help keep our vast fleet of vehicles ready to deploy, to volunteer drivers, independent custody visitors, and Victim Care Unit volunteers (among many) - there is a huge range of opportunities allowing people to give their time to support your police service.

The skills and experiences that members of the public can bring is invaluable in assisting the police to forge closer relationships with the communities in our cities, towns and villages. The biggest cohort of volunteers, and certainly the most high-profile, is our excellent team of Special Constables.

Specials are sworn officers with the same powers as regular officers who carry out a range of tasks largely front-line police work. They spend most of their time on the streets, doing intelligence-based patrols in crime hotspots or taking part in crime-prevention initiatives. This could be anything from keeping town centres safe at night through to conducting house-to-house enquiries or helping prevent vulnerable people from becoming victims of crime.

In Devon and Cornwall there is a group of Specials dedicated to tackling rural crime and engage with our large, and often hard to reach, rural communities. Many Specials live in rural areas and they know who’s who, including local farmers, business and land owners, parish councils, the National Farmers Union and community groups.
 By being proactive and getting out into these rural and often isolated communities the team often signpost people into services before they would come to the police by more traditional means thus reducing the demand on services and improving public satisfaction.

The rural Specials receive additional training to standard arrangements including how to tackle wildlife crime, firearms awareness (as there are over 20,000 licensed firearms in our community), and suicide awareness to try to reduce the high levels of suicide in rural communities. They have also now developed partnerships with Dartmoor National Park Rangers, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue and Customs and Excise, to name a few.

In April this year our specials rural engagement team and No Excuse roads policing team led a multiagency operation in Plymouth to target vehicle offences. Much of the specials efforts are co-ordinating partner agencies to play their part and it’s another great way policing is better connecting with our communities.

There have also been great efforts to tackle speeding on the moors with Operation Granite, an annual event across Dartmoor National Park involving several other agencies and support from regular police colleagues and staff from the Camera Safety Partnership. 
It’s easy to see why our Specials rural engagement team has won regional and national awards for its commitment to tackling rural issues and connecting policing to our often isolated communities and I am very pleased to say that they will be joining my engagement team at many events across the Force area throughout the summer.

We are incredibly lucky to have such a hardworking and dedicated volunteers in our police force including our police cadets.

Last week Chief Constable Sawyer joined Baroness Harris of Richmond and members of my team at the House of Lords at an event to celebrate the success of the cadets. Mr Sawyer has national responsibility for the scheme which has recently benefitted from two years of Home Office funding, worth £1.8m, from the Police Innovation Fund.

This amazing event was attended by over 150 guests from police forces across the country, police and crime commissioners, high sheriffs as well as senior Home Office representatives and cadets themselves, who talked about their experiences. Dr Jeffrey DeMarco, a leading forensic psychology, criminology and legal researcher, at Middlesex University, presented ground-breaking research about the impact being a cadet can have on a young person’s life. He said it “demonstrated a boost to young people’s psychological well-being across their confidence, self-esteem and empowerment, it also provides a safe place for young people to interact with like-minded peers, and gets them involved and visible in their communities.” Amazing.

There are 250 cadets attached to units based across Devon and Cornwall. A new unit is due to be launched in Torbay soon and cadets are being recruited now. If you know anyone who would like to join up, or if you would like to volunteer, you will find more information here: dc.police.uk/youth/police-cadets/unit-location-and-how-do-i-apply/

There are many other opportunities to volunteer within the wider police family like Neighbourhood Watch, Farm Watch and Boat Watch. I am also hugely supportive of community Speedwatch groups.

If you would like to see what volunteer opportunities are currently available you will find the information here: dc.police.uk/your-right-to-information/our-people/recruitment/police-support-volunteers/volunteer-roles-available

Alison Hernandez