Operation Homeguard: One Year On
An outstanding policing project which helps to tackle crime and keep local communities safe celebrated its one year anniversary this week at Colchester Police Station.
The volunteer-led project was championed by District Commander Richard Phillibrown, Pc Michael Lee and PCSO Aaron Hunter.
The aim of Operation Homeguard is to provide residents with reassurance, crime prevention advice and on occasion seek local intelligence about criminal behaviour. Residents joining the initiative are given a Police Volunteer Identification badge, notebooks and information leaflets.
Chief Insp Richard Phillibrown comments on the inspiration behind the project:
“When I became Colchester District Commander, I identified burglary as a challenge, and one where local people could help us to know what was going on in their area. We recruited local volunteers to help with the project and it has helped to create a more cohesive community. They joined up because they care and wanted to make a difference. We have had good feedback and instilled public assurance and I want to give a big thank to the whole team.”
Comparing April 2013 to February 2014 with the same period in 2012-13, 103 fewer homes have been burgled – a reduction in house burglary of 17.6 per cent.
Chief Insp Phillibrown adds: “Since the autumn of 2013, we’ve also been running Operation Insight, a forcewide policing initiative to combat house burglary, and elements of Operation Homeguard such as raising crime prevention awareness and reporting suspicious behaviour very much dovetail with Insight.”
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “We funded a part of the project through our New Initiatives Fund which supports innovative crime prevention and community safety pilots. After seeing the project one year on, I’m really pleased that we were involved it and hope it continues to be a success as it moves forward into its second year.”
The PCC has provided £1,250 for Operation Homeguard in 2013-14 to fund the volunteer team’s jackets and travel expenses.
Pc Michael Lee believes Homeguard is having a real impact. “During the first year, we’ve visited 10,000 homes and deployed in the community on 25 separate occasions. We currently have 12 volunteers and they wear the high visibility jackets as they’re out and about, helping to build public reassurance.
“The public see the jackets as a sign of authority and can confidently speak to the team about a range of issues. The volunteers often provide simple crime prevention tips such as suggesting a resident doesn’t leave their satellite navigation system on display when they park their car, or bike security advice,” continues Pc Lee.
The volunteers are hugely enthusiastic and Pc Lee describes them as ‘like a family’. The recruits range from college students to existing street pastors. Many of the younger recruits are very interested in working for the police as a full-time career and the scheme gives them a good insight into one aspect of police work.
The volunteers include:
Owen Waples from Chelmsford
Robin Rennie from Great Horkesley
Nicholas Hanbury from Great Bentley
Danny Noellen from Greenstead
Cameron Wales from Witham
Matthew Gregory from Colchester
Helen McAndrew from Shrub End
Chelmsford volunteer, Owen Waples has been involved in the project from the very start and it helped him to secure a job at one of the country’s most important organisations.
Owen said: “I had just finished university and needed some work experience. I put my name down and was delighted when Pc Mike Lee called me. Helping the public increased my confidence, and I’m now working in customer services at the House of Commons!”
Operation Homeguard is currently looking for new recruits. If you feel you have the skills to perform this role, please contact [email protected]