A pioneering new initiative which uses volunteers on horseback to help combat rural crime in Warwickshire has been officially launched at Moreton Morrell College.
The Mounted Police Support Volunteer Scheme is a partnership between Warwickshire Police, Moreton Morrell College (part of the Warwickshire College Group), The British Horse Society and Horse Watch and has been funded by Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Ball.
The mounted volunteers will engage with their local rural communities while out on their regular hacks along bridleways, lanes and country roads, looking out for anything suspicious or requiring police action. They do not have any greater powers of arrest than any other citizen and will not take on the same responsibilities as special constables or regular mounted police, nor will they be used as a deployable resource by the police.
Instead they will be the 'eyes and ears' for rural communities – similar to Neighbourhood Watch in urban areas – and will work closely with police Safer Neighbourhood Teams, providing intelligence and information to help support crime prevention.
All volunteers are issued with a hi-viz jacket featuring the Mounted Police Support Volunteer Scheme emblem, while their horses are equipped with reflective sheets and leg wrappings. Each applicant has been vetted by the police and was required to attend road safety training sessions run by The British Horse Society at Moreton Morrell College and to pass an examination which assessed their riding skills.
At the launch ceremony today, the first six volunteers to successfully complete their training were officially welcomed into the scheme alongside a further five who are in the final stages of their training. The event at Moreton Morrell College’s Equine Centre was attended by dignitaries including Chief Constable Martin Jelley.
“The British Horse Society is very happy to support this new initiative which allows horse riders to make a valuable contribution to countryside safety and security," said Sheila Hardy, BHS Senior Executive (Safety).
"It is particularly encouraging that all the riders taking part in this project have committed themselves to take their BHS Riding and Road Safety Test – the only test available that teaches riders how to keep themselves, their horses and other road users as safe as possible when they are out on the road and in the countryside.”
Welcoming the commencement of the scheme, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Ball said: “With their elevated positions on horseback, the Mounted Police Support Volunteers have a unique vantage point and can spot many things that someone on foot or in a vehicle might not otherwise be able to see or even be able to get near to. This is all valuable information which might not otherwise come to police attention.
“By acting as the eyes and ears of the police, they can make a real difference in driving out crime from our rural areas. They will also provide a visual deterrent to crime – criminals tend to avoid communities where they know people are looking out for each other – and help provide a positive link between the police and rural communities, particularly in the more isolated areas.
“Tackling rural crime is one of my key priorities and I have been a particular champion of this scheme from its outset, so I am delighted to see the first volunteers complete their training and begin their work across Warwickshire,” added Mr Ball.
Sue Taylor, Volunteers Programme Manager for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police, described the valuable contribution the volunteers will make to the rural community: “Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and bring with them an array of skills and experiences and by sharing their knowledge and time with the police will make a positive impact on all of our local communities across Warwickshire.
“The service that we provide to our communities is significantly improved by the support that volunteers offer. We appreciate volunteers’ time is valuable and therefore I would like to personally thank them for taking the time to volunteer with us. Their time, commitment and professionalism are very much appreciated and we look forward to embracing mounted police support volunteers into our policing family.”
Angela Joyce, Group Principal and CEO of Warwickshire College Group, said: "We are delighted to be a part of the Mounted Police Support Volunteer Scheme which is officially launched today.
"Moreton Morrell College is at the heart of the rural Warwickshire community, so we understand the importance of this scheme in helping to combat rural crime. It's a great way for the riders to give something back and have a really positive impact in their local area.
"We look forward to welcoming more volunteers to the college to do their training and seeing the scheme go from strength to strength."
The Mounted Police Support Volunteer Scheme will run for an initial 12 months before it is reviewed and a decision made as to whether it should continue or possibly be expanded further.