THE valuable community work carried out by volunteers, police officers and Police Community Support Officers across Wiltshire and Swindon has been recognised today at the first Neighbourhood Policing Awards presentation in Devizes.
The awards were set up by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson.
Mr Macpherson had been due to address the invited audience and present the awards. But he is recovering in the Royal United Hospital in Bath after collapsing a week ago whilst on an official engagement in Trowbridge.
In his absence, the awards were presented by the Chief Constable Pat Geenty.
Mr Geenty was a member of the judging panel together with Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott, Swindon Council chief executive Gavin Jones, High Sheriff Peter Addington and Mr Macpherson.
Kieran Kilgallen, chief executive of the Office of the PCC, told the gathering: “If Angus was here today I am sure he would be telling you just what an important part volunteers play within the communities of Wiltshire and Swindon.
"Volunteering is something which Angus holds dear and being a volunteer himself in his very limited spare time he knows how fulfilling such work can be.
“Angus has been quite clear since being elected to office that volunteers have a huge role to play in helping him achieve the priorities he set out in his Police and Crime Plan.
“It is the Commissioner’s belief that we, the residents of Wiltshire and Swindon, have to play an active part in our communities. So, for example, he has been extremely keen to encourage the development and growth of various watch schemes such as Community Speed Watch and Neighbourhood Watch.
“In other words, he believes what Robert Peel, the founder of British policing, said: ‘The police are the public and the public are the police’.
“The Commissioner feels that the awards will draw attention to the good work that is done by volunteers. That attention should then hopefully motivate other people into stepping forward and giving some time to their community. The other benefit of the awards is that they provide an opportunity to recognise and applaud some of the excellent work that goes on.
“This is the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week and charities and organisations across the country are taking the opportunity to thank the army of people who by, willingly giving their time, truly make a difference.
“Within the Constabulary, volunteers are to be found in various guises; some wearing the uniform of the Special Constable and patrolling our streets; others wearing a high vis jacket as members of their local Community Speed Watch.
“Then there are those who are largely unseen such as Neighbourhood Watch volunteers or the Independent Custody Visitors who visit custody units unannounced to check on the welfare of detainees.”
Mr Geenty expressed his delight that Mr Macpherson was making progress in hospital and praised the Commissioner for his initiative in setting up the awards and said they shared a commitment to harness the potential that volunteers have to offer.
PCSO Juliet Evans won the PCSO of the year award.
Nominated by South Marston Parish Council, the Judging Panel felt that Juliet was a worthy winner of this award Juliet is supportive of local initiatives, for example Community Speed Watch, accompanying the team on many occasions, even those outside her normal working hours.
Juliet holds meetings regularly with the communities to which residents are invited to discuss any problems or difficulties they may have, particularly those concerning potential criminal activity or anti-social behaviour.
She gives her support willingly to the Swindon Salamander Programme for Down’s Syndrome children.
Often patrolling her areas on foot or on her bicycle, she has been known to choose to walk from Highworth to South Marston, ending at Gablecross Police Station, a distance of some five miles.
She is very active in providing helpful information to the Neighbourhood Watch network in the village. During Action Week 2011, she persuaded the Swindon Community Safety Partnership to arrange for their community bus to visit South Marston for bicycle and saddle marking and registration under the Horse Watch scheme.
The Neighbourhood Policing Team of the Year award went to Swindon Town Centre, Broadgreen NPT, who were nominated by Broad Street Area Community Council and in recognition of the support and encouragement given by the local team to the community as a whole.
The team have shown that with time, understanding and patience, getting to know people and different groups, and by encouraging integration and breaking down barriers, they have helped to make the area a better place to be.
They have a good understanding of community and people, and engage with all members of the community; they are always willing to take part in community events and projects with both older and younger residents.
As a result, crime and disorder in the area has been noticeably reduced.