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Force says big thank-you to unsung heroes

11/06/2014

Staffing a police station front desk and co-ordinating community safety groups won’t appear on the post-work wish lists of too many retirees!

But that’s exactly how two of West Midlands Police’s most committed volunteers – 79-year-old Eric Thomas and 75-year-old Charlotte Billingsley – are helping to make their retirements not only enjoyable but also fulfilling.

Eric and Charlotte are among around 100 volunteers who lend local police teams a hand across the West Midlands.

Between them they’ve been devoting time to neighbourhood policing in Wolverhampton for more than 20 years – and as the country marked National Volunteers Week (1-7 June) senior officers in the city said a big thank-you at a surprise presentation.

Wolverhampton Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Simon Hyde (pictured with Eric and Charlotte), said: “Charlotte and Eric are both exceptionally committed people who make a valuable contribution, giving their free time and talent in order to help make our communities safer places.

“Their effort is thoroughly appreciated by officers and staff at Wolverhampton LPU and they are very much part of the team; they are highly regarded, very much appreciated and an inspiration to us all!”

Eric – who worked at Wolverhampton paint factory Manders for 30 years – has been a familiar, welcoming face behind the front desk at Low Hill police station since the building opened in 2003.

Police plans initially earmarked it as a base for officers to work from without a public drop-in counter – but when Eric and other local Good Samaritans volunteered to staff a help-desk Low Hill got its own community police station!

“Visitors might just ask for directions, advice or information,” said Eric, who volunteers on Monday and Wednesday mornings, “but others may want to report concerns or anti-social behaviour.

“Some people like to speak to someone in person behind the desk rather than pick up the phone and dial 101; they appreciate I’m not an officer but know I can get PCs out to them quickly if needed.

“Just recently a near neighbour came in saying his house had been broken into and someone had stolen his boiler! I got officers there in just a few minutes – but for less pressing matters I’ll fill out a form and pass to officers to follow up as soon as possible.

“I love helping out…I’m almost 80 now but I’ve no intention of packing it in. I get to meet lots of people and am keeping an important local service open. I’d love to welcome more volunteers so we can keep the front desk open longer.”

Former School Crossing Patrol Officer Charlotte kept Wards Bridge and Wednesfield High School pupils safer for many years before her retirement.

But she’s kept busy since hanging up her lollipop for the last time by co-ordinating her local Moat House Estate Neighbourhood Watch group and volunteering in various roles with Wolverhampton Police.

She marked 10 years as a police volunteer in March this year and, during that time, has worked in crime file admin, the Community Safety Bureau producing crime reduction packs and organising meetings, and now supporting the Neighbourhood Watch scheme.

“You name it…I’ve done it,” laughed Charlotte, who volunteers two days a week from the partnerships office at Wolverhampton Central police station. “I promote the Neighbourhood Watch programme, help set up new groups, liaise with co-ordinators and keep contacts up to date.

“I wasn’t ready to sit around watching daytime TV or pottering around in the garden; I wanted to keep busy and keep my mind active. The Neighbourhood Watch network is great for sharing police security messages…I can’t think of a better way to volunteer than helping to keep neighbours and residents safe.

“I’ve made some good friends volunteering here…and now have a hotline through to senior police officers in Wolverhampton!”

For more information on National Volunteers Week visit http://volunteersweek.org and #volunteersweek.