Police to recruit volunteers to be ‘eyes and ears’ in community

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

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 Local Policing Volunteer scheme trials – 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.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said the roles were part of his manifesto promise to increase volunteer involvement with the constabulary, calling the scheme “a good example of communities helping themselves.”

He said selected areas had shown interest in supporting the force, adding that Woodbridge had not featured on the original list, but recent enthusiasm in the town had led to its inclusion.

The scheme will work in a way similar to “Volunteers on Horseback”, which asks riders to report suspicious activity.

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

Mr Passmore said volunteers would not be given specific briefs, but emphasis would be on them being “eyes and ears” of the area.

Funding will come from existing training budgets, but if the project expands, new areas of funding may need to be found.

Karen Harris, specials and volunteers manager for Suffolk police, said the roles would become embedded in the community.

She added: “Quite often, people don’t report crime because they don’t want to bother police. We want people to be empowered.”

Darren Harris, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, said it would prefer warranted officers in communities but, in the current financial climate, understood it was not possible, and that it would support 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.”