Tough call for crime squad

VOLUNTEER CRIME BUSTERS: Gail Williams and Diane Glister
VOLUNTEER CRIME BUSTERS: Gail Williams and Diane Glister
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We all know the thin blue line is stretched but it comes as a bit of a wake up call to learn the charity which helps drum up awareness and funds for the crucial Crimestoppers service is down to five volunteers locally.

Three are based in Blackpool and cover the whole of Lancashire for fundraising and promotions of the charity hotline.

Volunteer crimebuster Gail Williams is also a member of the resort’s Palatine club with the two other Crimestoppers volunteers Diane Glister and newcomer Chloe Fink.

“We recently appealed for members there, too,” she adds.

Crimestoppers has a fundraising evening at Blackpool’s Carlton Hotel tonight - and celebrates its 25th anniversary next year.

Gail admits: “It’s difficult. We’re the people who put the word out, bang the drum, raise the funds, and the profile. Yet we are desperately short of help to cover all the things which we should be doing, bearing in mind that our group of three is supposed to cover the whole of Lancashire. Two more handle other roles.”

Gail formerly led the town’s Alcohol and Drug service, which gave her an insight into the links between substance misuse and crime locally. Nationally 500 Crimestoppers volunteers come with the kind of expertise and experience which can be deployed in the fight against crime.

Twenty cover Lancashire, five from the Fylde, three in Gail’s fundraising/marketing wing. Regional Crimestoppers manager Gary Murray confirms that more volunteers are needed. “All the roles are crucial so if some leave there’s a big gap. It’s still an incredibly active area, in terms of support and success.”

Gary says the North West is the best and busiest region in terms of public support for the Crimestoppers hotline and online service.

“It’s a very varied patch, our most successful region, the public giving us more information than any other area.

“We’re well known, trusted and the strong sense of community within the region helps.

“We serve Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire forces. I also oversee the Isle of Man too.

“Lancashire is up there too with a very high call and follow up success rate,” he adds.

“It is one of our highest performing counties in terms of community and police terms. We get a tremendous response.

“We notice a spike in calls each time a major article - such as this one - is run. Newspapers such as The Gazette are immensely supportive of the fight against crime.

“People generally want to improve their communities, they see Crimestoppers as the vehicle to do their bit and try to stop drug dealing or abuse of young people or whatever the issue is.”

Gary believes that TV series such as 999: What’s Your Emergency? has boosted sympathy for police.

And while it can be a tough call to tip police off about crime anonymity is assured.

“In 25 years we have never broken that promise,” adds Gary.

“We couldn’t trace a call or a computer IP address if we wanted to – it’s all encrypted in cyber space.”

Accordingly very few Crimestoppers callers opt for rewards available – such as the £3k offered for information about those involved in the aggravated burglary of a 74-year-old woman in her own home in Fleetwood earlier this year.

“Only 0.05 per cent ask for a financial reward,” says Gary.

The service celebrates its 25th anniversary next May with a fundraising ball in Blackpool and a northern conference for volunteers in Manchester in February. A major campaign begins in the new year – following on from the success of the region’s Invisible Man campaign this year. The message will be that every individual can make a difference,” says Gary. “Reporting a small crime can be just the break a big investigation needs. It can feed back to serious organised crime.

“We don’t promote our successes because there’s a chance only a few individuals knew the information reported and could be at risk – but you think of any major incidents, from your Harold Shipman to the murder of Rhys Jones, we will have received calls on it.

“Don’t support crime – report it.”

Local volunteer Gail concludes: “We want to attend club days, large gatherings, PACT meetings, take leaflets, have a stall explaining about the charity - and raise funds and awareness particularly for the 25th milestone anniversary.”

Tonight’s clairvoyance fundraiser is at the Carlton Hotel, North Promenade, 7pm, admission £10. To volunteer practical help visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org and follow the links to volunteering. To report a crime call 0800 555 111.

n jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette.co.uk or tweet her @jacquimorley