Give a few hours to help community as safety partnership launches campaign

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Residents in Central Bedfordshire are being encouraged to give up a few hours of their time each week to help others.

There are many different ways that people of all ages and backgrounds can take up volunteering, and now residents are being urged to do just that.

From looking out for elderly and vulnerable residents as a Nominated Neighbour; patrolling the streets as part of the Street Watch scheme to volunteering as a Street Pastor to help those enjoying a night out on the town, there are many different ways to give something back to your community.

Now Central Bedfordshire’s Community Safety Partnership is launching a campaign to encourage people to think about volunteering.

Marston Moretaine Street Watch was set up as a pilot in the summer of 2010, with volunteers patrolling their own neighbourhoods and helping police to tackle low-level crime and antisocial behaviour.

Such was its success that it is still going strong today, and is one of a dozen schemes across the region. As well as the usual patrols, members have taken part in a number of other innovative events to improve the local community.

They included getting youngsters to help redecorate the underpass which runs under Lower Shelton Road following problems with antisocial behaviour there. Instead of the mindless scribblings which had been on the walls, youngsters helped produce cartoon-style graffiti under the guidance of professional artist Neal Kean.

Working to make our communities safer are the 222 volunteer police officers, or special constables who currently give up a minimum of 16 hours a month to help police Bedfordshire.

Bedfordshire Police says it has a ‘one police force ethos’, with its special constables integrated into the force and working closely with regular officers. And it hopes this will help to boost the numbers to 500 by April 2016.

T/Special Chief Officer Wayne Humberstone, who has been a volunteer police officer with Bedfordshire for over 20 years, said: “I am incredibly proud to lead such a dedicated team and I am confident that together, as the special constabulary establishment continues to increase, our opportunities to demonstrate the value we bring to the communities of Bedfordshire will grow”.

Special constables have the chance to develop their skills into specialisms such as roads policing, forensics and police dogs, and last year 51 specials moved on to join Bedfordshire and other police forces as regular officers.

As well as helping other people, volunteering has benefits for those who give up their time, including forming new friendships, increasing feelings of self-esteem and well-being and gaining an insight into the voluntary sector.

Shaida Younis has been volunteering for Victim Support for the past two years, and spends between six and eight hours a week working for the charity, which helps victims of crime. She said: “It can be enormously rewarding when I help make a difference to someone’s life – it gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction.”

Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Communities at Central Bedfordshire Council, added: “If you didn’t make a new year’s resolution, then why not do something now and think about volunteering? There are so many different things you can do and ways you can help fellow residents and your community.

“You don’t have to give up huge amounts of your time, because even volunteering for a few hours each week can make a really big difference. And you may surprise yourself and find that you get back as much as you put in.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities in Central Bedfordshire visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/volunteering or call Voluntary Works on 01525 850559 or 01234 213100.