Towns react to new policing volunteer scheme

Bridge Street, Bungay.Picture: Nick Butcher

Bridge Street, Bungay.Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Members of the public will be trained to become special police informants as part of a new trial scheme across Suffolk.

Market Street, Beccles.Picture: Nick Butcher

Market Street, Beccles.Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Six communities are set to take part in Local Policing Volunteer scheme trials – Beccles, Bungay, Eye, Stanton, Long Melford and Woodbridge.

Four volunteers from each area will help report crime from April, with the scheme then evaluated in August. If effective it may be implemented across the rest of the country.

The Buttercross, Bungay.Picture: Nick Butcher

The Buttercross, Bungay.Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The new roles are intended to increase volunteer involvement with the constabulary and improve communication links between the police and local communities.

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore called the scheme “a good example of communities helping themselves”. He said volunteers would not be tasked with specific briefs, rather they would act as the “eyes and ears” of the area.

Heather and Joe Jermany. Photo: James Carr.

Heather and Joe Jermany. Photo: James Carr. - Credit: Archant

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Volunteers will wear tabards and have access to police stations - where they can report crimes.

However, according to Beccles mayor Richard Stubbings, for the scheme to be successful more effective channels of communication need to be established.

Peter Langford. Photo: James Carr.

Peter Langford. Photo: James Carr. - Credit: Archant

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He said: “I’m pleased the police are trying to more proactive and getting involved with the community.

“But the scheme will only work if there is good communication both-ways and volunteers aren’t left just talking into a black hole.”

He added: “During a meeting about the scheme it was suggested that some kind of dedicated phone line be established so volunteers did not simply have to rely on calling 101.

“I think it will be useful having the volunteers’ presence on the streets but there is no point if there isn’t good communication.”

The mayor said that while vast improvements have been made in recent years in areas such as cyber-crime this has come at the cost of intelligence at street level.

Simon Thompson, chairman of the Bungay Event and Business Association, expressed a similar sentiment.

He said: “There has been a lack of police getting in with the community. A lot of crime can actually be avoided just by having someone around who knows what is going on. Really I would like to see better funding for the police but I suppose some policing is better than no policing.”

Public reaction

News of the scheme has garnered a positive reaction from the people of Beccles.

Joe and Heather Jermany called the initiative a “good idea”. Mr Jermany said: “The police have got too much on their hands and they need some help.

“It will help the police as there is not enough of them.”

Mrs Jermany added: “There are a lot of troublesome areas in Beccles so it is a good idea.”

Likewise Peter Langford was pleased with the new scheme.

He said: “On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea.

“Ideally one would have a lot more police but we have limited resources – that’s always going to be a problem.

However, Natalie Barnard was sceptical as to how effective the volunteers’ presence will be.

She said: “I do wonder how much good they will do without having any extra power – the sort of people who need policing will just carry one as they were.”

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