To mark Volunteer Week (1-7 June) we are showcasing some of the varied roles undertaken by volunteers in support of policing across our area.
Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator Sandra White has carried out the role for the past 12 years and has been shortlisted for this year’s National Neighbourhood and Home Watch Awards.
She was nominated by Wendy Hull, who chairs the Bristol NHW Network, who said: “Sandra is always more concerned about other people’s welfare than her own. She plays a massive part in promoting and delivering activities for older, disabled and vulnerable people in Shirehampton.”
Neighbourhood PC Amanda Patterson added: “Sandra’s commitment to Neighbourhood Watch over many years has brought the community closer together. She is super vigilant and without her commitment Shirehampton would be a less cohesive and peaceful community.”
Across the force area volunteers are involved in supporting crime victims and witnesses through what used to be known as an ‘ID parade’.
The volunteers come out at short notice at any time of day, to meet victims and witnesses at police stations. They chaperone them through what’s now a virtual process, watching a short film of the suspect and eight volunteers.
Identification Unit Manager Carl Parish said: “The chaperones are giving victims and witnesses a quality service and releasing officers to focus on their front-line duties. The South Gloucestershire volunteers were rightly recognised with a ‘highly commended’ in the national Special Constable and Police Support Volunteer Awards in 2012.”
In the Mendip area, a group of volunteers helps to keep the roads safer by running a Community Speed Watch (CSW) scheme.
There are many such schemes across the force area, in which volunteers are trained to use speed monitoring equipment to check traffic speeds on local roads. They note down the details of any vehicle being driven too fast and pass the information on to local police. The officers then send the registered keeper a warning letter – the scheme is about educating drivers, not enforcement.
In May the Frome CSW teamed up with local police to run a week of activities aimed at encouraging people to obey the speed limits.
A check of a hotspot at the end of the week showed fewer drivers were speeding.
Volunteer Ashley Reay said: “I joined because I had some spare time and I wanted to put something back in the community. I thought I’d try it for a month and I’ve been doing it for five years now – and I like to think I’ve helped educate drivers and change people’s attitude to speeding.”
Many towns with a busy nightlife have volunteer Street Pastors, who give up their time to provide a reassuring presence on a Friday and Saturday night. They give care and support to people who may be feeling vulnerable after a night out.
In 2013 the Taunton Street Pastors were joint winners of the Community Policing Volunteer of the Year award.
"If you have the passion for ensuring the communities of Avon and Somerset are safe and feel safe then you could help support local policing across your area." - Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens
Adrian Prior-Sankey said the award was: “A wonderful recognition of the service given by 70 local Christians who listen, care and provide practical support every weekend in all weathers.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “There are a number of ways you can volunteer in policing and the contribution each volunteer makes is invaluable. The commitment and dedication of our existing volunteers is irreplaceable and we welcome anyone that wishes to join the police service.
“Whether you are interested in becoming a Special Constable, a police cadet, a volunteer co-ordinator, street pastor, join community speedwatch or neighbourhood watch, there’s a volunteering opportunity for everyone.
“Policing is too big a job for the police alone and volunteers act as the eyes and ears of local communities, providing the police with vital intelligence. If you have the passion for ensuring the communities of Avon and Somerset are safe and feel safe then you could help support local policing across your area.”
Jennifer Hill has given us her time for the past three years as volunteer co-ordinator – supporting other volunteers!
She’s filling up her ‘retirement’ with a couple of part time jobs and volunteers with several organisations, including Avon and Somerset police.
Having previously served as a Special Constable for five years, she says she has ‘hankered after’ the chance to return to a role supporting the police.
Jennifer said: “I find that helping others kindles happiness. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training and gain experience which could be of benefit to your career.”
Community Safety Temporary Sergeant Kellie Millier said: “Jennifer has striven to create a volunteer family here in North Somerset. Maintaining contact with everyone can be incredibly challenging but she remains positive throughout. She has been a big help in nurturing and retaining our volunteers.”
Ian Skipp of Bradley Stoke has been a Vehicle Maintenance Volunteer at police headquarters in Portishead since September last year. He gives up four hours a week to travel to Portishead to valet some of our fleet vehicles and carry out standard checks to make sure they are clean, safe and ready for officers to use. He reports any faults and also takes them to and from the workshop for MOTs and services.
HQ CID Support Manager Jo Walker said: “By giving us his time to maintain our pool cars Ian ensures that officers and staff are able to focus on their core duties – and he refuses even to claim the travel expenses we would be happy to pay!”
Ian said: “Many people criticise the police but we take them for granted, so I volunteer to give something back to the police force and it's my way of saying thank you. When I finish my volunteering it gives me the satisfaction that someone's job will be that little bit nicer or easier. Volunteering for me has given me the chance to learn new skills and it's very refreshing as it's different to my full time job. I have had lots of support in fitting my volunteering in between full time work and my family life. Everyone in the department has made me feel very welcome and sees me as part of the team.”
Sylwia Czajkowska volunteers at our Mounted Section in Bower Ashton. She has helped out with horses at riding schools and therapy centres since she was 13 and has worked as a head groom.
She said: “I love horses. I really enjoy my volunteering here because this is a lovely place to work with great and experienced people from whom I can learn and gain more experience. I believe that every day moves me closer to my dream of finally having my own horse.”
Stable Manager Jon Green said: “Sylwia is tremendously helpful at weekends by helping the stable staff with some of the more time consuming work, cleaning and helping to keep the stables presentable.
“Her help allows the grooms to spend more time exercising and developing horses for their role within the police service. Our officers can then concentrate on their core role of patrolling, on horses that are schooled and exercised correctly.”
Becoming a Special Constable is another way of volunteering to support local police. Special Constables do have all the same powers, uniform and equipment as regular officers, but carry out roles in support of policing voluntarily after a rigorous selection process.
Chief Superintendent Nikki Watson, Avon and Somerset Police’s lead for volunteering and the Special Constabulary, said: “Our volunteers and Specials have an important part to play in helping us to keep our communities safe. They bring us even closer to the communities we serve and help us engage with people who might otherwise never have contact with the police service."
We also have more than 200 uniformed Volunteer Police Cadets giving up their time to support communities in every local policing area. Cadets are aged between 14 and 17, and as well as learning all about policing, they give up their time to support neighbourhood policing teams and community initiatives and to deliver crime prevention advice.