Volunteers help create positive public perception of police

Police volunteers.
Police volunteers.

Police often get criticised for their lack of customer service but the Hucknall team is helping to turn the tide and change public perception.

Thanks to an initiative set up in Ashfield South, with the invaluable help of enthusiastic volunteers, the service is responding in a positive way and improving community communication.

A small team of four committed and community-minded individuals, including John Duke and Peter Voysey, give their time for free to help Hucknall’s Insp Nick Butler meet the demands of his day.

Through the internet based Neighbourhood Alert system, they send out emails to whoever is signed up to the scheme giving them the latest information on crime and crime prevention.

The team are also responsible for calling back victims of crime to see if they are happy with the service they have received from the uniformed officers and to follow up with any victim support information or crime prevention advice.

“We currently have 850 residents signed up to the Alert system but we want more,” said John. “It’s a great way of letting the neighbourhoods know if there are any particular issues, like burglaries.

“This gives people the chance to be more cautious and proactive when it comes to securing their own property.”

The Alert system has been operating 18 months and is invaluable in getting information out to hundreds of people at once and at particular times can help the public be the eyes and ears of the police.

“It’s an essential tool in reaching the public instantly,” added John who has also served on the Neighbourhood Watch team. “And it’s really easy for people to sign up to it if they have access to a computer and email.”

Another way of reaching the public is through the texting service to mobile phones.

“This isn’t used very often but in certain circumstances, like if a child is missing from home or a gas leak, it is particulary useful,” explained Peter.

The volunteers offer their services twice a week on a Monday evening and a Thursday but is flexible. Mondays are when the group do their follow up calls from a list created by the inspector and Thursday is when they prepare the alerts.

“We are there to make sure that when the police say they will call someone back we do,” added Peter. “It’s important that the public recognise that we are on the edge of the organisation and we are not there to protect it.

“We can explain the situation, whatever that might be, to keep people informed and up to date with their case. The response we get from is generally very good as it reassures them that the police haven’t forgotten about them and are dealing with their enquiry.”

Once the calls are made the team compile a feedback form and any problems are followed up by the inspector.

“People’s perception of believing it’s best to have Bobbies on the beat is a little old-fashioned because with the technology and intelligence of today, this isn’t always the case,” explained Peter.

“So when some people complain that they never see the police in their area it is probably down to the fact that crime is low there and they are concentrating their efforts in areas which are suffering from higher levels of incidents.”

Both John and Peter are retired and have been helping as a volunteer for two years under the new structure but both were involved in Neighbourhood Watch for many years.

Peter is a former police dog handler from the West Country who moved to Nottinghamshire to be closer to family so continued his service to the public albeit in a different capacity.

“I almost feel duty bound to help the area where I live,” said Peter. “And I like to keep busy in retirement as it helps to keep my mind occupied.”

The police are grateful for the contributions made by its volunteers.

“Volunteering is more than a bridge between the police and the public because the volunteers and the Specials are the public,” said a spokesman.“It is a bridge in the sense that it brings the public in to us, but one of the key advantages it gives us as a service is that we have the public working with us and we can hear the public’s views, and the views of these volunteers and the thoughts they are able to contribute help us to shape our business.”

Insp Butler echoed these sentiments: “The Hucknall volunteers help us to provide a better service to victims of crime by listening to their experiences and providing really useful feedback on how we can do things better.

“They also provide support to victims and ensure that sensible crime reduction measures are in place.

“I would like to say a really big thank you to all our volunteers who give their time and just want to help.”

If you would like to sign up for the Neighbourhood Alert system visit www.hucknallcommunity.co.uk.

For more information on becoming a volunteer visit www.nottinghamshire.police.uk/jobs/volunteers.