Derbyshire Constabulary is inviting members of the public to volunteer their spare time to helping protect communities up and down the county.
The Police Support Volunteers scheme, which launched yesterday is open to anyone who wants to get involved with local policing but not wear a uniform.
A wide range of specially created activities will be available to people who want to become a volunteer, from manning CCTV cameras to becoming part of the force’s dedicated wildlife crime team.
The aim is to give people the chance to make a difference in their community by teaming up with police, and to support officers by reducing the amount of time they spend at the desk.
A pilot of the scheme took place in the Derbyshire Dales and High Peak throughout 2013, and was widely praised by volunteers and police alike.
One of those early volunteers was Brenda Smith, who quickly became an integral part of the policing family in Glossop.
She said: “It’s been a very interesting scheme to be involved with because it gets me out and about, I get to see what the Safer Neighbourhood teams are all about and it has given me much more of an insight into the work that the police do.
“The advertisement said that it would be taking notes at meetings and distributing them but it very quickly became much more involved than that. I’m involved in Neighbourhood Watch, Farm Watch, Pub Watch, and the Inspector at Glossop was keen for us to get out on the ground, so I’ve been on crime prevention sweeps with officers.
“I expected to be treated as if I didn’t really count but there has been absolutely none of that whatsoever. Everybody from top to bottom has been really friendly and welcoming, which made it very easy for me and a much better experience than I expected.
“It has been fascinating.”
Sophie Blackburn was also one of the first volunteers to sign up to the pilot and has been getting stuck in with policing in the Bakewell area.
She is now about to join Derbyshire police as a Special Constable – another form of volunteering – and said her experience on the pilot scheme was a great help.
Sophie said: “When I heard about the Police Support Volunteer scheme, I was interested immediately because I wanted an insight into what being a police officer is like.
“Through volunteering with officers in Bakewell, I’ve been able to get much more experience and get involved with so many different activities.
“Becoming a police officer is an aspiration of mine and this has been a fantastic help – the experience and skills I gained helped me with my application to become a Special Constable and I’ll be starting that later this year.”
The 25-year-old has been involved with a wide variety of projects, including the Farm Watch scheme that aims to cut rural crime by boosting security at farms, Shop Watch in Bakewell, and organising various Safer Neighbourhood events and visits.
She added: “I’ve learnt a lot about community concerns, how to deal with and talk to the public and the work PCSOs and Police Officers do in order to prevent and reduce crime.
“I’d definitely recommend this role to anyone who is interested in a future career in the police.”
Among the activities that volunteers will be able to take on from June 28 are helping maintain the force’s fleet of vehicles, getting involved with Farm Watch, Shop Watch and Pub Watch, supporting Safer Neighbourhood teams in your area, and helping to operate CCTV cameras in towns across the county to help detect and cut crime.
The full list of activities – including required experience and the application criteria – can be found on the Derbyshire police website, on its Careers page.
Temporary Chief Inspector Jon Clark, who was in charge of policing in the Glossop area when the pilot scheme launched, said it was an opportunity for people who wanted to give something back to their community to do just that.
He said: “Police Support Volunteers became valuable members of the policing team in the Glossop area.
“Together, we developed the activities to the stage where they took over the running of various ‘Watch’ schemes, such as Pub Watch and Shop Watch. They helped PCSOs staff pop-up shops so we could get people’s views on issues in their neighbourhoods, and they joined officers on crime prevention visits, which were always very well-received.
“It was a pleasure to work with people who wanted to improve the local area for the local community and I hope to see many more like-minded people coming forward to help make such a positive difference.”