A retired police officer who is still passionate about policing is continuing to help fight crime by volunteering to sift through hours of CCTV footage.
Ben Richardson, who lives in Bovingdon, can often be found trawling through CCTV from supermarkets and petrol stations to identify potential suspects in cases such as shoplifting and bilking crimes.
He pinpoints any significant footage and shares it with officers to help them with their enquiries into a crime. It means frontline officers aren’t stuck behind a computer when their time could be put to better use elsewhere.
Ben said: “Community safety, the prevention and detection of crime and anti-social behaviour are not simply a police responsibility. As well as other agencies, it is for citizens in their local communities to take some responsibility. Volunteering is an excellent way to do this and can be a rewarding experience.”
The initiative is relatively new, launching in Hemel in December and Ben is one of 10 volunteers giving their time to the role.
Dacorum Chief Inspector Paul Mitson said: “Volunteering is just one of many ways in which the public can actively help us, working together to keep Dacorum safe.
“This new role, where volunteers help with viewing CCTV, is an excellent way of freeing up police resources so that officers can get back out on the streets.
“If anyone is interested in taking up a volunteer role we would be delighted to hear from them.”
Now aged in his 70s, Ben brings plenty of life and policing experience to his work as a volunteer.
After leaving Apsley Grammar School he joined the RAF as a pilot and was based on an air defence squadron in Scotland. He went on to work for Rolls-Royce Aero Engines as a computer systems analyst.
Later, in 1979 Ben joined Hertfordshire Constabulary as a Special Constable (a volunteer police officer with full police powers) before quickly becoming a full time Police Constable who was initially based at Hemel Hempstead Police Station.
With his computing background he played a significant part in the implementation of a new crime recording system and was based at the Constabulary’s headquarters in Welwyn Garden City during this time.
Later, Ben returned to Hemel as an Inspector before being seconded to the Cabinet Office in 2000. While on secondment he worked with a number of foreign police service organisations, including those in Cyprus and Russia to share best practice and promote performance improvement.
Following his police service Ben continued to work as an independent consultant until 2014 when he retired. But he didn’t put his feet up for long and returned to policing as a volunteer within six months, helping with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Community Drive Safe Scheme – an educational initiative where members of the public use handheld speed check devices that identified speeding drivers in rural areas. The motorists are issued with warning letters and repeat offenders are visited at home by police officers.
“It’s the sort of thing that is in your blood,” said Ben, who continues to help run the Drive Safe Scheme in Bovingdon and has also volunteered to help set up other schemes in nearby villages such as Chipperfield, Flaunden, Felden and Markyate.
“I’m happy to help out,” said Ben. “I think it goes back to my air force days – it’s about safety and reassurance, meeting people and helping people.”
Sergeant Matt Deveney, who oversees the volunteers based at Hemel Hempstead Police Station, said: “The support that volunteers provide to officers is invaluable and saves frontline officers hours of time stuck in front of a computer screen rather than out and about which is what the public wants.
“Volunteers like Ben give up their time selflessly to help bring offenders to justice and ultimately protect the residents of Dacorum.
“There are a whole host of volunteering opportunities available with the Constabulary and you don’t need any experience in policing to apply. If you would like to find out more about volunteering visit hertspolicecareers.co.uk/police-community-volunteers.”
Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said: Well done Ben, it is fantastic that he is volunteering his time and expertise.
“We have fantastic volunteers across Hertfordshire who want to give something back to their communities.
“My Community Safety and Criminal Justice Plan is called Everybody’s Business, as each one of us as citizens can take action and play a part in preventing and reducing crime.
“Community Drive Safe and police dog welfare are just two ways others inspired by Ben can get involved through my office. Details are available at hertscommissioner.org.”