Suffolk Police chief’s praise for volunteers on horseback scheme
- Credit: Archant
They are the 'eyes and ears of the countryside,' according to a police and crime commissioner.
In June 2015, Suffolk Constabulary introduced a new initiative – as police volunteers on horseback were unveiled to help tackle rural crime in the county.
Now, more than a year-and-a-half on, 19 police support volunteers on horseback are patrolling the Suffolk countryside.
In north Suffolk, there are 10 mounted police volunteers offering a reassuring presence in rural communities.
And providing a friendly focal point on the streets of Waveney is Sarah Hills and her Clydesdale cob cross horse Robbie. The pair have been a highly visible point of contact as they patrol the rural areas around Wangford, South Cove, Southwold and Reydon on their regular rides.
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Mrs Hills, of Stoven, near Wangford, said: 'We've been doing it for just over a year now. I work full time and it's nice to do this as a hobby and help the police out. We are in the community talking to people, providing a focal point and reporting numerous things in the area, such as flytipping, lots of overgrown hedges, fallen down trees and so forth.
'While it is not necessarily fighting crime, we are helping police by getting out into places where motorists and pedestrians can't go.'
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With the volunteers on horseback reporting incidents to police via 101, Mrs Hills added: 'Its been enjoyable. People see you and talk to you – its providing this public presence in the community. They know who Robbie is – you can't miss him – but he's friendly so it's a way of locals having a contact point as well if they need one.'
Mrs Hills said that one of the 'biggest improvements' had been raising traffic awareness on some of the roads and country lanes. 'Thanks must go to the motorists,' she said.
'When out I wear the Suffolk Police volunteers on horseback tabard and this extra visibility makes a tremendous difference. It is about informing motorists and raising awareness – as its important to give good clearance and to pass wide and slow when overtaking.'
? For more information on the scheme, visit www.suffolk.police.uk
Mrs Hills mainly uses Robbie to patrol the streets and rural community, however since Christmas a new 'baby in training' has been helping when they're on the beat.
She said: 'I have had Robbie since he was four, and he is now about 13. Remi has been with me since Christmas, and he is only four-years-old – a baby in training.'
Sarah's friend and stablemate Rachel Langman joins her most weekends on patrols with her Welsh Section D horse, Star.
And back at the stables, Robbie and Remi have fun in the field with the 'adorable' Shetland pony Rhubarb – who is Robbie's 'partner in crime' according to Mrs Hills.
A Suffolk police spokesman said: 'We currently have 19 police support volunteers on horseback with 10 of these being in the north of the county.'
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT THE SCHEME
Gareth Wilson, Chief Constable at Suffolk Police and an avid horse rider, said: 'This scheme has grown considerably since it was set up in June 2015.
'We are indebted to the great work that our volunteers undertake in various roles across the county, however our volunteers on horseback assist in being a highly visible and accessible point of contact for our many rural communities here in Suffolk.
'I am delighted that the scheme has been such a success and I urge anyone who rides regularly to consider joining us in helping to make our countryside a safer place.'
Suffolk Police Crime and Commissioner, Tim Passmore, said: 'Our volunteers on horseback do a fantastic job supporting Suffolk Constabulary right across the county.
'They offer a reassuring presence in our local communities and are a valuable, highly visible, addition to the bank of Police Support Volunteers already embedded in the organisation.
'These volunteers are the eyes and ears of the countryside. They know their area, what's usual and what is out of place. By reporting anything that seems unusual they help the Constabulary in detecting crime. Their presence also helps to promote crime prevention awareness in the area.
'Whilst out on their regular rides, our equestrian volunteers report any suspicious activity, anti-social behaviour, damage or any rural community safety issues they encounter to the Constabulary.
'They don't get directly involved – they leave that to the police and that's the way it should be,' Mr Passmore added.
'I am really delighted to support this innovative project which adds another level of support to keep us all safe, especially in the Suffolk countryside.
'It is yet another fantastic example of Suffolk people helping each other – something I believe we are particularly good at.'