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The volunteers helping to build safer communities

Radio listeners may be familiar with Dr Michael Mosley’s ‘Just one thing’ show, which looks at a single factor which has been shown to have a positive impact on people’s health.

The volunteers helping to build safer communities

Independent Custody Visitors on a visit to Exeter Police Station

Last week Dr Mosley focussed on some extraordinary research which indicates that volunteering is good for your physical, as well as mental, health. Students in a group who took part in regular volunteering sessions saw reduced obesity, blood pressure and even inflammation.

Researchers think that the psychological and social benefits of volunteering are responsible for these remarkable results.

And to mark Volunteers’ Week 2024 – organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations – I would like to shine a light on all the wonderful people who give their time to help create safer communities.

Appropriately enough this week began with a councillor advocate seminar. These advocates for policing and my office come from all walks of life and all levels of local government. The scheme is designed to put them in regular contact with their neighbourhood policing teams so they can work hand in hand to understand community priorities and tackle the issues which matter most to those we serve.

Being a councillor is often a thankless task and this week I would like to thank all those who give their time to make a real difference to cities, towns and villages up and down Devon and Cornwall. There are around 150 councillor advocates around the force area, so if you have an issue related to community safety and you want help or advice consider asking your local council if they have a member on the scheme.

These councillors have helped inform me on numerous issues and played a seminal role in delivering my scheme to reopen police enquiry offices.

My office also run an Independent Custody Visitor scheme. This scheme supports me as I scrutinise the Chief Constable over his ability to deliver an effective and efficient custody service. Their main role is to check detainees’ rights, entitlements and conditions are being met. Visits are unannounced and can occur day or night. No one would pretend it’s a glamorous role, but it does provide a vital service, and the Devon and Cornwall scheme has been recognised by the Independent Custody Visiting Association as meeting its exacting standards. In the year to April 2024 25 of these volunteers  made a total of 199 visits, and were able to resolve a number of issues with local policing teams.

Finally, as the commissioner of victim services in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, I am immensely grateful to those who give their time to support victims of crime. Being involved in a crime can be bewildering, especially if a case goes to court, and there are numerous volunteers engaged in assisting those affected by crime.

These volunteers played a key role in supporting people in the aftermath of the Keyham shooting in 2021, joining me in that community the day after those tragic events. But they stand by the side of numerous other victims throughout the year.

Of course, Devon & Cornwall Police has many volunteers too, from vehicle cleaners to actors who help with training new recruits and, of course, Special Constables who have the same powers as regular officers.

Volunteering builds skills and experience, enhances self confidence and boosts volunteers’ sense of wellbeing. In policing it makes a real difference to the communities we all live in and care about making better.

So if you feel inspired to find out more about volunteering for any of the opportunities above, or are a councillor who wants to join my advocate scheme, visit the Join Us section of my office's website or call my office on 01392 225555.