Results of the Ramsey policing survey

A few weeks ago, the St Ives policing team drew up and distributed an online survey designed to give residents of Ramsey and the surrounding villages the opportunity to let police know their views and opinions on crime and anti-social behaviour in their communities and how they feel policing is carried out locally.

The survey gave people the opportunity to say what they felt local policing priorities should be, within the framework of Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s overall objectives, and also what other concerns and worries about crime and policing they may have.

In the two-week period that the survey was open, 283 questionnaires were completed and sent in – a really excellent response! Thank you to everyone who took the time to do the survey and let us know your views and opinions.

The survey is part of the Constabulary’s Community Engagement Programme and will be followed up by a Police/Community Forum Meeting at Ramsey Methodist Church on June 21 from 7.30pm.

The meeting will be chaired by Sgt Andy Street, who will give a presentation on the findings of the survey and answer questions from the audience.

For the benefit of everyone who completed the survey, and anyone else who is interested, here are graphs showing the responses to the various questions that were asked:

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“It is more than just a way to spend your spare time; it’s another career and can be a completely different way of life to what you’re used to”

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Chemist Louisa Bellis explains what it’s like being a Special

Being a Special Constable is like nothing I could have ever imagined or predicted. When I started the application process in 2010, I knew that I was interested in being a police officer, but I didn’t know if I would be a ‘good fit’ for the Force, or even if it would be something that I would ultimately enjoy or be good at. However, literally an hour into my first shift in January 2012 I knew it was for me and haven’t looked back since. 2,400+ operational hours later and I am still hooked and full of enthusiasm, wanting to do more.

I had always been interested in policing and law & order, and in my younger days had briefly thought about being an officer, but science won out and I headed off to university to study chemistry. After finishing my PhD, I was employed at a company where I had to travel frequently and never had much spare time. When I moved to Cambridgeshire from Yorkshire in 2009 for a new job, I suddenly found that I had a lot more free time and I started to consider constructive and rewarding ways that I could fill it. Whilst I was looking at volunteering positions, I remembered seeing an advertisement for being a Special Constable on television with the tagline of ‘Could You?’, which sparked my long-forgotten memories of wanting to be a police officer. Once I had investigated what being a Special Constable would entail, I knew instantly that was the direction I wanted to go in. The application and interview process was the most intensive that I have experienced (yes, even more so than applying for a PhD in chemistry!) and after being a police officer for the past three years, I can see why this is necessary. The process may be long and in-depth, but it is definitely worthwhile.

After attestation, I spent just under a year working with a shift in Cambridge City on the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT). This was an incredible eye-opener as to what goes on in the world that, generally, you are not exposed to except through the media, and even then it’s in a diluted format. In this team, you deal with anything from a simple Saturday shoplifting job to a vicious, drunken assault outside a nightclub. I loved my time in SNT, but I was always pulled towards the two and four-wheeled side of policing, also known as the Road Policing Unit (RPU). After applying and sitting the qualifying boards, I was accepted into RPU and this is where I have been for just over 2 years. My shifts with RPU are mostly made up of road traffic collisions (RTCs), speed enforcement and general patrols on the main arterial routes around Cambridgeshire. I have dealt with many broken down cars, which can involve literally pushing a car around a roundabout into a petrol station, or pushing them off the main road onto the grass verge (and slipping into the mud for my troubles) or protecting colleagues on the main roads by directing traffic around them whilst they help members of the public. I have attended more collisions than I can count, all of differing severity. I have no shame in telling people that some of these collisions have affected me emotionally afterwards, but the support that you are given by your regular colleagues is amazing and you never feel like you have to deal with things alone. On the flip side, I’ve been to more jobs that have been uplifting where I’ve walked away believing that I have helped or a made a difference in some small way.

It is more than just a way to spend your spare time; it’s another career and can be a completely different way of life to what you’re used to. It infiltrates everything you do; from the way you interact with people, to the experiences it gives you that no other job can. My day-to-day life as a scientist has given me the skills to be analytical and gather information before making decisions. This has come in handy when I have had to investigate crimes and offences. Another skill that I brought from my day job to the police was the ability to sit back and listen to people, which is very important when you are faced with members of the public who are distressed or angry.

However, it’s not all about what you can bring to the job, it’s also about what you can get out of it. In fact, my overall confidence has been increased, due to having to deal with such a variation of jobs and people and having to react immediately to whatever is thrown at you. It’s also made me more relaxed about situations and stopped me taking insults and criticisms personally. When you are a Special, you work alongside other Specials, either on shift or at various operations. For me, this has led to meeting some great people, some of whom I now consider to be my best friends. You are able to bond over shared experiences, such as juggling a full time job with carrying out hours as an officer. This can be tiring and mean that you miss out on a social life, but having a support network of people in a similar situation makes it a lot easier.

Specials are often used to train the new regular officers, new PCSOs, new Specials and even the Police Support Unit. This can involve you helping with role-plays or even pretending to be part of a violent disorder group. Days like these can be a lot of fun and you get to meet a lot of people. You also have the freedom to take part in interesting operations, such as traffic enforcement alongside VOSA and HM Customs, plain-clothes burglary patrols and drugs warrants. If football is your thing, Specials are frequently asked to help out at local football matches. A couple of operations that will stay with me are marshalling the Olympic Flame tour back in 2012 and the Tour De France in 2014, both of which were fabulous experiences that I couldn’t have got from anywhere else and the memories will last a lifetime.

Ultimately, being a Special Constable has changed me as a person, for the better. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ role and it isn’t for everyone, but I would urge people to try it out. I wouldn’t change any of the experiences that I have had for anything, as it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done and I expect to continue for many years yet. For me, it gives me the best of both worlds. I get to be a scientist by day, which I love, and I get to be a police officer in the evenings and weekends, which I also love. I don’t have to choose between them and I get to enjoy having two careers at the same time. How many people can say that?

For more on becoming a Special visit here HERE

Modern slavery: a victim’s experience

I’d been through a tough time in Latvia and was looking for a fresh start. I’d heard how people had moved to the UK and found work with good wages. It felt like the right thing to do to get out of my situation.

I saw an advert online saying that there was plenty of work in Cambridgeshire. I called the number and spoke to a man who said that he could guarantee work and that accommodation would also be included as part of the job.

I didn’t have the money to pay for the travel, but he said I could pay him back when I got my wages. It sounded perfect and I agreed to go.

When I arrived in the UK I was taken to my accommodation. It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t want to complain. I thought I could find something else after a few months of working. There were twelve of us living in a two bedroom house, sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

The man who brought me to the UK said he needed my passport to complete some paperwork before I could start work, so I gave it to him.

It took about a week before I started work, initially in the fields and then later in a factory. The hours were long and my wages were paid to the man who organised everything. He only gave me about £15 a week after he had taken off money for rent, my debt for travel to the UK and transport to work.

Sometimes there wasn’t any work for a while, but I still had to pay rent. I couldn’t afford to and so it was added to my debt.

I confronted him about returning my passport and the low wages, but he assaulted me and said I was ungrateful. I felt trapped and just had to take it. I had to spend all the money I got on food just to survive. Even if I did somehow manage to save enough money to go home, I didn’t have my passport to make the journey.

I was becoming increasingly desperate and didn’t know where to turn.

Then one day police officers came to the house and said that they were investigating the man who had brought me to the UK. I told them what had happened to me and they arranged for me to go to a place of safety.

I thought my situation in Latvia was bad, but this had been much worse. I wish I’d never taken the job, but finally I had managed to escape.

If you’re concerned for someone’s welfare please call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively you can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

For more information on the signs to look out for visit http://bit.ly/2qb3RAn.

*This blog has been based on common experiences of victims of modern slavery in Cambridgeshire. It is not the specific account of one individual.

Results from the St Ives and District ‘Policing Opinion Survey’, March 2017

In March of this year, the St Ives Local Policing Team drew up and distributed an online survey designed to give residents of St Ives and the surrounding villages the opportunity to let the police know their views and opinions on crime and anti-social behaviour in their own communities.

As well as capturing basic demographic data such as the age and gender of respondents, the survey was particularly interested in finding out what people felt policing priorities should be in their communities, within the framework of Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s overall objectives.

In the two-week period that the survey was open, two hundred and thirty six questionnaires were completed and sent in – an excellent response! Thank you to everyone who took the time to do the survey and let us know your views, worries, opinions and concerns.

The survey was part of the Constabulary’s Community Engagement Program and was followed up by a Police / Community Forum Meeting held in Needingworth Village Hall on the evening of March 30. The meeting was chaired by Sgt Andy Street of the Local Policing Team, who gave a presentation on the findings of the survey and also answered questions from the audience about crime in the local area.

Also present was a representative from Cambridgeshire County Council’s Trading Standards Department who gave a very interesting and useful talk on frauds and scams, and how we can protect ourselves from them.

For the benefit of anyone who completed the survey but was not able to attend the meeting, and anyone else who is interested, please see the attached graphs showing the responses to the various questions that were asked

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Who’s hiding behind those messages?

The majority of people use social media to keep in contact with their friends and family but for some it can be used as a tool to groom children and young people.

Children no longer know life without the internet and are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to technology and the latest apps. However, the internet is also an easy place for men and women to make contact with young people by hiding behind screens.

What is online grooming?

Grooming is about building a relationship with a child to get something from them, like images or videos, to meet them in person and to later abuse them.

Online gaming, social media and chatrooms enable anyone the opportunity to try and make contact with a child.

Men, and women, from 18 onwards can create fake online identities and pretend to be children themselves to trick real children into chatting and sharing.

They’ll do their research before they make contact by looking at other things the child had posted and other social media sites they are on. They can then use the information to plan their conversation.

Those who want to groom children will use any sites or apps which are popular with young people. On social media they might send multiple friend requests at random in the hope that a young person will accept them.

In games and chatrooms they’ll try to start conversations with young people and then ask them to chat privately through a different app.

Don’t panic and ban your child from the internet or social media but it’s fair to assume that if a site or app is popular with young people then those with a sexual interest in children will try to use it to communicate with them. Ensure they are aware of the risks that come with speaking to anyone online.

While some people might persuade a child to meet face to face, it’s becoming increasingly common for children to be tricked or coerced into sexual activity on a webcam or into sending sexual images.

There isn’t one clear sign of online grooming but the following signs from ThinkuKnow could be an indication:

·        Have they suddenly become very secretive? People who abuse will try to stop young people telling their friends and family about the abusive relationship.

·        Are they sad or withdrawn but won’t say why? If something is going on with your child online it might be really upsetting them. They might feel trapped, like they can’t talk about it. Let them know you’re there to listen.

·        Do they seem distracted? We can all get caught up in ourselves if things are worrying us. If they seem unusually preoccupied it might be because things are weighing on them which they feel they can’t talk about.  

·        Do they have sudden mood swings? Mood swings are not uncommon in adolescence but they can be a sign that someone has built a relationship with your child which is affecting their moods. 

·        Are they unable to switch off from their phone or social media? Lots of us find it hard not to check our phone or the internet, but if your child gets particularly worried or stressed when they can’t, this can be a sign someone is controlling them.

If you are concerned about someone your child is in contact with, contact your local police, children’s social care department or report directly to CEOP.

If you want to discuss your concerns with someone call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. If you believe your child is at immediate risk call 999.

Are you and your family oversharing?

Have you ever stopped to think about what you or your family are posting on social media? The instant nature of posting and sharing means it’s incredibly easy to give too much information away, be it personal information, opinions or private photos and videos.

Oversharing can have negative consequences, including providing personal details to undesirable people and damaging your online reputation.

Here are some top tips from Internet Matters.

Are your children sharing inappropriate selfies?

Discuss the reasons why they feel the need to share such images and the potential long-term impact this could have on them if the pictures are used without their consent.

Peer pressure and the desire for attention can be reasons why some children feel the need to share inappropriate photos with friends and people they meet online.

Did you know it is illegal for a child under 16 to share a naked image of themselves? Just as it is illegal for someone to be in possession of one.

Encourage young people to spend time with real friends without feeling the need to gain approval by getting ‘likes’ on a photo they’ve shared.

Do you feel they’re spending too much time on social media?

Agree some house rules on when and how long children can go online and which sites they should visit.

It’s a good idea to give your eyes at least 30 minutes rest from the screen before bed. Don’t forget that young people are often influenced by their parents so ensure you’ve put your phone or tablet away too.

Are they sharing their location through apps?

You can turn the geolocation off to ensure your child’s whereabouts is private. Explain why it’s important that they never share personal information with people they don’t know online and remind them you are there if someone is making them feel uncomfortable.

Be clear that they should never meet someone face to face without your consent or you present. You never know who could be hiding behind the screen.

Have they posted too much personal information?

Talk to your children about the potential risks of sharing personal content online such as grooming or cyberbullying.

Help them understand how to remove information that could pose a risk to them and ensure their accounts are private so their shared information can only be seen by people they know.

Are they chatting to strangers online?

Is your child aware that people can and do hide behind fake profiles for dishonest reasons and the person they’ve been chatting to could easily be someone with bad intentions.

Show them how to block unwanted friend requests or to report anything offensive.

Are they gaming with strangers online?

Playing games online can be fun and might seem harmless but ensure your children are aware that gaming can also be a platform for people to hide behind fake profiles.

Consider using parental controls to limit who they can play with online.

Do they have hundreds of followers?

Discuss what it means to be a friend or a follower online, the pros and cons of having lots of ‘friends’ online and the importance of knowing that they’re people you can trust.

Have they shared embarrassing images?

Almost everyone has a presence online today or their own personal digital footprint which will be with them for years to come.

Maintain a positive presence online by encouraging children to think before they share. Messages, pictures and videos, even sent ‘privately’ could end up in the wrong hands.

Set an example and never post anything that you wouldn’t want them to see.

Are they at risk of being cyberbullied?

Children who are being cyberbullied often find it difficult to talk about it so make sure they know they can talk to you without being judgemental or getting upset.

Do they understand what they share online can hurt others?

Talk about peer pressure and how screens and anonymity can lead to behaviour that is hurtful. There can be blurred lines between uploading and sharing content because it’s funny or might get lots of likes versus the potential to cause offence or hurt.

Have they been affected by content shared online?

Show them how to gently challenge their friends if they find their content offensive. Remind them they can always talk to you about things happening online.

If you feel comments or post may be affecting your child’s mental health and wellbeing, seek advice from your GP. Depending on the seriousness, you might want to report it to police on 101.

Are they ready to share on social media?

Did you know that most applications have a minimum age rating of 13 which means the content might not be suitable for a younger child.

Carry out some research yourself about why type of content they may be exposed to.

For further information and advice, visit Internet Matters.

Betrayed by her boyfriend in revenge porn nightmare

Hazel was head over heels in love when she shared an intimate video with her boyfriend. She had no idea he would betray her trust just months later.

I will never forget the summer of 2013. I was 23 years-old. I’d not long split up with my boyfriend of 10 months and I was sitting in a park having a picnic with my friends thinking about my future and looking to put the past behind me.

I glanced down at my phone to see I’d been sent lots of Facebook friend requests. When I looked to see who they were from I realised they were all men, strange men I’d never met or even heard of.

It was only when I checked the messages in my ‘others’ folder that dread began to fill my body. The messages were rude, some unbelievably crude, strangers describing what they wanted to do to me.

There were also messages from men warning me that ‘my video’ had been ‘leaked’ with attached links so I could find it. I googled my name and there it was, page after page, site after site. In big capital letters all I could see was my name, my full name, accompanied with insulting tags. I felt dirty and disgusted. How could he do this to me?

When I first got with my boyfriend, I was infatuated. He asked me to do a little video for him for ‘when we were apart’. I eventually agreed. The video was quickly forgotten about and that was that.

Our relationship broke down some months later as I discovered him to be very manipulative. He said he would post the video online but I didn’t believe him. I didn’t think he or anyone could be that cruel. I even doubted that he was responsible when it did come out.

My nightmare continued over the next few weeks as the video went viral. It was re-posted by people across the world and I would have about 30 strangers message me every day. It took a long time but I contacted the websites directly and explained what had happened and to my relief, one by one the videos were being taken down.

Was I wrong to share the video with my then boyfriend? At the time no. I trusted him and never believed he would ever take revenge on me in such a hurtful way.

Would I send photos to a new boyfriend? I have been asked and I confidently explain why I’d rather not. I have only ever received positive responses. I am respected for that decision.

However, I do believe that if someone wishes to share such images then there should be nothing wrong with that, provided you are of a legal age and there is complete trust. The receiver respects and understands the consequences they can face if they break this trust and the law.

I’ve since campaigned alongside MPs for revenge porn to become a crime and in 2015 it became illegal to distribute a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them distress.

It covers images posted to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well as those that are shared via text message and carried a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.

I’ve shared my story in schools and been shocked at the number of people who have not only sent or received images or videos but how many have become a victim when their personal images have been shared online.

Please don’t suffer alone. There is help available.