One’s home is one’s castle

According to ‘Yahoo!’ the explanation for the expression – “one’s home is one’s castle” – is that a person’s home is that person’s dream place. The explanation continues by setting out that the size of a house is not the most important determinant; instead, it is the people living in it and the love shared by the people in the house that makes it special: making it a dream place like a castle. I like this explanation; I like this expression and I am often reminded of it, particularly now when one of the priorities of Cambridgeshire Constabulary is concerned with dwelling burglary: preventing its occurrence, identifying, pursuing and prosecuting those who commit this crime.

I was also reminded of both the expression and supporting explanation when I was out with my close circle of friends recently. There are four of us and when one was recounting her experiences having suffered a dwelling burglary earlier this year, it was only me that could not totally empathize. My three close friends have all been the victim of dwelling burglary. In order to provide some reassurance I should point out that not one of them lives in Huntingdonshire. Here, we are seeing less dwelling burglary offences being reported. Certainly, during the course of 2015 / 2016 there were on average 25 dwelling burglaries reported within the district each month. In the preceding year (2014 / 15) that monthly average was 29.

But back to my friends, and, indeed, using my professional experiences of other dwelling burglary victims that I have encountered what always strikes me about dwelling burglary more than any other acquisitive crime is very far detached from the numbers: it is all about the sensations; the feelings.

When my friends spoke about arriving home to find that their ‘castles’ had been broken into they talked about turning their keys in their exterior doors. They talked about opening these doors and immediately sensing something was wrong. They were struck by a cold sensation – gusts of cold wind – caused by the fact that elsewhere in their home there was an insecurity caused by a smashed window. These insecurities were letting in the elements: the cold from outside and this more than anything else was their indication that something was wrong.

As they entered further into their homes, again, they told a similar tale. They found drawers opened; they found their personal possessions missing.

My friends are not alone: they are not the only ones to have suffered dwelling burglaries, and like so many other sufferers, they have had their personal possessions taken from them. One friend had a necklace stolen from her home; the necklace having been a gift from her since-deceased mother when she – my friend – was 18. One friend had her computer stolen and this meant having her memories that had been recorded via photographs taken from her because they had all been stored on the device’s built-in hard drive.

I write again: my friends’ experiences are not unique. Indeed, I share them for that very reason. They are personal accounts of what many victims of dwelling burglary experience and suffer, and, whilst we can take some reassurance within this district following some reductions in the incidence of this crime we can never be complacent.

I know that my Neighbourhood Watch colleagues have never been nor would never become complacent; I know that there are many motivated and caring people within this district, again, who have never been nor never would become complacent. Together with their police service they work to keep their communities and their homes safe; they establish Neighbourhood Watch Schemes, they look out for their neighbours: quite simply, they are community-spirited.

Another way in which individuals can seek to attack the crime that is dwelling burglary is to take the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ anti-burglary test.

Introduced by my South Cambridgeshire Area Commander colleague, Chief Inspector James Sutherland, it is an online survey that even back in January of this year, only a few months after its launch, had more than 2,000 South Cambridgeshire residents checking the security of their homes.

The test is designed in such a way that home residents can find out if their home security is such that their homes could be made of ‘straw, twigs or bricks’. Of course, this is a nod to the ‘Three Little Pigs’ tale. When he was interviewed about the test, Chief Inspector James Sutherland set out that 17 per cent of respondents had been scored as being vulnerable – having houses made of straw – while only two per cent had achieved the more secure ‘house made of brick’ status.

When we very imminently launch our survey – bespoke as it will be to Huntingdonshire – we will offer those graded as vulnerable a full home security survey by specially trained police community support officers (PCSOs), and, graded as having a house made of straw or not, there are key and practical steps that we can all take to make our homes more secure. Certainly, I would encourage anyone wanting to find out more as to how they can keep their homes safe and secure to visit the Cambridgeshire Constabulary website. I would also encourage you to take part in the Bad Wolf survey coming to our computers very soon. Find out for yourself, have you got a house made of straw, twigs or bricks?

Hopefully, it will be the latter: it will be bricks and you will be able to take some reassurance from that fact.

Hopefully too, you can take reassurance from the fact that you are soon to get a new Area Commander, and, moreover, that the officer taking over the helm is an experienced detective who is looking forward to the new challenge that is Huntingdonshire. I am moving on. I started this role stating that I was “proud” to serve the district. This was my position in September 2013; it remains my position today. Many of my friends, family – indeed my life – exists with me in Huntingdonshire. I have thoroughly loved my time as the Huntingdonshire Area Commander: it is a role that has challenged me, but, that constantly inspires and motivates me. I leave behind a district served by dedicated and professional officers and police staff. Indeed, by way of an example, two off-duty officers – one of the district’s PCSOs and one of the district’s constables – successfully achieved the arrest of a male who had been proving elusive. One of the officers was enjoying a bike ride in the sunshine; one was walking her dog, but such was their commitment to public service – to keeping our communities safe – that they immediately came together, made contact with on-duty officers and using the bicycle and a pincer-type movement, caused the arrest of the male. He was subsequently charged and remanded for court. A dangerous male was taken off the streets; potential victims were safeguarded.

This is just one example of the work that your local police service undertakes each and every day. With or without me, they strive to keep us all safe.

I will miss them; I will miss you.

Please, please keep safe, and, of course, take care. Thank you for all your support; I have enjoyed working both for you and with you.

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