Surrey Search and Rescue a voluntary service you’ve likely not heard of

A busy, busy day yesterday. Most of which involved a fascinating tour of the BBC at Broadcasting House in London, more on this later. The evening involved attending an a council External Partnerships Select Committee meeting, which received two presentations, one from Surrey Search and Rescue, and the other from the Environment Agency.

As a nation we’re blessed by people who volunteer, notably in the field of rescue services. The UK’s Lowland Rescue provision combines predominately volunteer-based organisations, such as Mountain Rescue, Cave Rescue, Volunteer Coastguard, the RNLI and others.

I imagine you’ll not have heard on Surrey Search and Rescue. It was only formed in 2010, when neighbouring counties noticed a need for a permanent representation in the county of Surrey. It provides a valuable role assisting Surrey Police in finding missing people using foot-teams and dog-teams, often over large areas of wilderness and without knowing where the casualty is to begin with. Over 2,100 people go missing in Surrey alone.

The service is run entirely by volunteers, none of whom is paid for their time, fuel or expenses. It receives no public funding, and is supported only through donations and grants from industry. Surrey Search and Rescue provided invaluable support in the floods in 2014, such that their work was recognised by the Prime Minister who invited them to No 10 Downing Street. Séamus Kearns, head of operations for Surrey Search and Rescue, gave the presentation to the committee, and before which he allowed committee members to clamber all over the group’s 4×4 rescue vehicle.

It's a 'blue light' service Surrey Search & Rescue vehicle

6 ways to protect your home from burglars when you’re away

logoAn email from Surrey Police provides information on how to protect your home from burglary, especially when you’re away from home, even if it’s just for a short break.  A burglar, who admits to over 70 burglaries in Surrey, tells Surrey Police how he did it.

This time last year the area experienced a large spate or burglaries. At the time a number of arrests were made with one suspect admitting to over 70 burglaries in Surrey. Interviews with this and other burglars have given us an insight into what they look for and how they do it:

1-What did the burglar say?

“The first thing I’d look for were houses where bins were left outside the house in a road where no one else had. This let me know there was a chance that the occupants weren’t home.”

How you should respond:

If you are planning on going away, even for a short period of time, ask a neighbour or relative to bring bins back in. If you do keep bins outside your property make sure they are away from walls or fences preventing easy access to areas out of public view.

2-What did the burglar say?

“If the bins were still out I’d go in for a closer look. Another good sign its empty is being able to see the post building up. A look through the letterbox or glass doors makes this easy.”

How you should respond:

If you are going away ask a neighbour or relative to collect post, putting it out of sight from front doors. If you are away for an extended period of time try contacting the postal service and requesting delivery to an alternative address.

3-What did the burglar say?

“Sometimes people put timers on lights when they go away. If the curtains then stay open the whole night or I notice that the curtains haven’t moved over a few days, it normally suggests that no one is home.”

How you should respond:

Timers are a great crime prevention device however it can be even more effective if used in multiple rooms. Arrange for someone to check your property whilst away. Each time get them to open or close the curtains to suggest people being home.

Continue reading

Barclays Bank in Lightwater is open, though the ATM isn’t

Barclays bank Lightwater ATM outside viewGood to see that Barclays Bank in Lightwater is open for business, after the attempted robbery of their ATM machine.

I’m told by local shopkeepers that the robbers used a modern liquid explosive to attempt to enter the ATM inside the bank branch. I’m happy to repeat Surrey Police’s request for witnesses to the robbery, which occurred in the early hours of Saturday 12th July.

I’ll write more about security issues in general in the next few days. I did spend time working for Chubb & Son’s Lock & Safe Co, learning something about security. Not complicated stuff, just common sense.

Meanwhile, here’s the what the Barclays Bank Lightwater ATM looks like this morning.

Barclays Bank Lightwater ATM inside view

Police appeal for witnesses to attempted bank robbery in Lightwater

Damaged ATM in LightwaterArriving at Lightwater’s Fayre in the Square today, there were police protecting the damaged Barclays Bank ATM in the village square. It appears that thieves attempted to break into the Barclays Bank ATM, damaging the public side of the machine and also attempting to enter the ATM by breaking into the Bank.

Surrey Police have asked for your help, following the attempted theft of cash from an ATM machine in Lightwater in the early hours of this morning (Saturday 12 July).

Three offenders wearing dark clothing, hoodies and masks attacked the machine at Barclays Bank in The Square at around 2.30am. It appears the gang used a tool to cause a small explosion in an attempt to gain access to money inside the machine before entering the bank itself through the front door.

They then made off towards the M3 motorway in what is believed to be a grey Audi TT. Detectives are appealing for anyone who was in the Lightwater area or travelling through it in the early hours of this morning and witnessed any suspicious activity to come forward.

Detective Sergeant Jim Strugnell said: “The explosion would have caused a loud bang and I am appealing for anyone who was in the vicinity of The Square last night and saw either the three men or the grey Audi to come forward. I am also keen to hear from anyone who may have seen the Audi travelling at speed towards the M3.”

Anyone with any information should contact Surrey Police on 101 quoting reference p14200927. The independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111. – See more at: Surrey Police Witness Appeal.”

Police Inspector Martin Goodwin returns to Surrey Heath

I’m a bit late in reporting the outcome of the meeting of Surrey Heath’s External Partnership Select Committee meeting last week. There we two important presentations to the committee – from Police Borough Commander – Inspector Martin Goodwin, giving a Crime and Disorder update, and Rob Mills – Regional Housing Director of the Accent Group on local housing.

This report is about the Crime and Disorder update.

Inspector Martin Goodwin has been away from Surrey Heath for seven months doing a Neighbourhood Policing Review. He reported that  changes to Surrey Police, having reduced their PCSO’s by 60 and increasing police officers by 60. In Surrey Heath this has meant losing three PCSO’s, but gaining three police officers. Martin reported that Surrey Heath is the second safest borough in Surrey, after Mole Valley.

Martin stated that, for Surrey Heath, the police will focus on reducing public violent crime, dwelling burglaries, and drug activity.

In an honest appraisal of the inhibitors to crime reduction in the borough Martin said that changes in the organisation of Surrey Police has reduced his autonomy, fewer support staff, maintaining leadership stability, and managing the crime workload.

There are however positive factors helping the police locally, having a strong policing team, being co-located with the Council improves co-ordination, and improving relationships with partyers such as Accent Peerless..

I asked Martin to explain more about his focus on controlling drug activity, and learned from him that crystal meth is becoming the drug of choice. Martin also said that Operation Swarm is an effective way to reduce criminal activity. This means ‘swarming’ around a suspect, using all means to reduce the suspect’s ability to operate criminally.

Pleasingly, soon after the meeting Surrey Police reported Four arrests following drugs warrants across Surrey Heath, demonstrating Martin’s focus on drugs. Here’s the police report on the arrests, Continue reading

How use of social media aids effective policing

Following on from the previous post on Crime and Disorder update, Inspector Martin Goodwin, answered a question from Cllr Paul Deach about the use of social media by the police, and why he hadn’t written a post on his twitter account for 5 days.

The surprisingly open admission was that there’s much caution about its use by the Police, and that Martin thought he had neither the technical necessary infrastructure, nor support to develop a plan for it’s use.

The use of social media should be integral to the interaction between police and the public. It isn’t that one form of social media is more effective than any other, each have their roles, and should be part of a combined communication strategy with the public, be it general website, a dedicated website to a topic, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.

Post the 2011 riots the government produced a short brief on Smart Practices for Social Media in Emergencies. It’s a well prepared set of tips to help establish the effective use of social media by the Police and other first responders.

The document begins with these excellent summary points,

  • Social media is a social medium for the people by the people about the people.
  • Social media benefits emergency management as well as the public.
  • Think before you leap and develop a strategy.
  • One size does not fit all. Do your research.
  • Preparedness is the most critical and difficult stage.
  • Engage, interact, participate…don’t just broadcast.
  • Understand the level of resource needed.
  • Seek out promising practices and share them.
  • Start small, fail early, learn often

Conversations from our Neighbourhood Police team to the public shouldn’t be a commentary on every crime or arrest. To do so would merely increase the fear of crime. The limitations of Twitter, only 140 characters per message, presents difficulties. These can be overcome when its value is fully recognised and endorsed.

Using social media helps bring the issues of policing closer to the public, and when used effectively creates a personal link between the police and the public they protect and serve.

Here are some links to social media and the police use of social media.

Comparing Staffordshire and Sussex to Surrey Police, it would seem that Surrey Police have work to do to make effective use of social media.

Committee get update on crime and disorder in Surrey Heath

Last night I attended the External Partnerships Select Committee meeting. I’m not a member of the committee, though as a councillor I can attend, listen and ask questions.

It was the agenda that attracted. The main business was to “consider an update on crime and disorder within the Borough”, with presentations from Surrey Crimestoppers, Surrey Heath Neighbourhood Policing team, and an update on the Surrey Police and Crime Panel.

Inspector Martin Goodwin’s presentation on crime and disorder was crisp, rich in facts and full of passion. It evidenced dedication, commitment, skill and leadership, which I’m sure is part of the reason for the excellent reduction in crime and disorder in the Borough. I’m a slow note taker, so only managed to write down a few facts from Martin’s talk,

  • Overall crime in Surrey Heath is down 12%
  • Camberley town centre violence is down 31%
  • Community satisfaction with the police is high
  • About 45% of crime is classified as cross border crime, where criminals come from outside the borough
  • Though from a low level, there’s a 20% increase in domestic burglary
  • Surrey Heath Neighbourhood Watch is the biggest in the UK

Martin extolled the virtues of co-operative working, and how the Safer Surrey Heath Partnership delivers benefits to the whole community.

As I write this a email pops up on my phone from a Camberley-based businessman, about drunks, drug takers, dog fighting, and loud music in Park Street. Oh, to have had that email yesterday.

The statistics mentioned in the presentation by the Angela Hollinshead, area manager of Surrey Crimestoppers, again which I failed to note, showed how effective a truly anonymous crime reporting system can be.

Each borough in Surrey has one representative on the newly formed Surrey Police and Crime Panel, and ours, Cllr Charlotte Morley, informed the committee of its scrutinising the work the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey.