Old Bill! Upminster pensioners patrol in pioneering police scheme

Streetwatch volunteers with police officers

Streetwatch volunteers with police officers - Credit: Archant

A pioneering, Boris Johnson-backed police scheme aiming to drive down crime is being piloted in Upminster – by volunteers as old as 80.

Street Watch, which sees locals walking the beat and reporting suspicious activity, was launched on Saturday at Sanders School in Suttons Lane, Hornchurch.

The Mayor of London hopes to roll the Met project out across the capital, but residents of Cranham and Upminster are the first to trial it.

And though they’re not officially police officers, some volunteers definitely live up to the “old bill” nickname.

Among those queuing for hi-vis jackets and personal attack alarms were pensioners in their 70s and 80s – to the surprise of creators Pc Belinda Goodwin and Sgt Ken McNish.

“They’re quite elderly! said Pc Goodwin. “I think at that age maybe they care more and have more time. And they’re fearless.”

Based on successful schemes in Bedfordshire, Suffolk and the West Midlands, Street Watch aims to ease pressure on the Met following revelations of a further £800m in cuts by 2020 – on top of £600m savings already being made by next year.

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Dubbed the modern day version of bobbies on the beat, Steve O’Connell from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac), described the project as a “model for the Met”.

Barbara Holland-Davies, 62, of Sunnings Lane, Upminster, is one of 11 volunteers to sign up so far.

She enrolled with four friends after a spate of burglaries in their street.

“We’re a close-knit community and thought this sounded like a good idea,” she said. “You’re walking in an area you know, and we want it to remain safe.

“Years ago you had bobbies on the beat but police have so many jobs to do now and everyone has to play their part. “People will say police should be doing it but why is it a bad thing to help out?”

She agrees with Pc Goodwin about the elderly being “fearless”.

“People in their late 70s and 80s lived through a war and had to find strength of character,” she explained. “They’re used to looking after their neighbours. It’s not like we’re going out at 2am.”

Visit street-watch.org/havering to sign up.