Amber Valley police offering free home security checks as winter nears

PC Andrea Smith, community safety liaison officer for Amber Valley and Derbyshire Police, is helping to launch personal home security appointments across the borough with Safer Neighbourhood Teams.
PC Andrea Smith, community safety liaison officer for Amber Valley and Derbyshire Police, is helping to launch personal home security appointments across the borough with Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Derbyshire police has launched a new advice service this month to help Amber Valley residents learn how they can better protect their property and avoid being targeted by criminals.

Personal home appointments with members of the Safer Neighbourhood Team are being offered to all residents to discuss crime prevention tips and particular security issues which often arise around the home.

The project is being led by PC Andrea Smith, who has been with the force for 18 years and now works as the community safety liaison officer in partnership with Amber Valley Borough Council.

She said: “We try and do different initiatives like this throughout the year, and very often they’re seasonal. In the run up to Christmas, as nights get darker, it’s good to raise awareness of those factors which might make people’s properties a more attractive target for certain kinds of criminal.

“We’re here to assist and offer advice and give people confidence that they’re doing all they can to protect their property.”

Appointments can be booked at a time convenient for the homeowner, and either PC Smith or a colleague will visit to carry out a thorough assessment of the risks.

She said: “Target hardening is about all the different ways you can strengthen security, whether that’s windows and door locks, security lights, or things like landscaping.

“There could be shrubs in your garden which offer a place for someone to hide. If the front of your property is shielded from the street, or if it is too easy to access the rear, then it might allow an opportunist criminal to case it without arousing people’s suspicions.

“Even things like window blinds which obscure a particular view into the property could make a big difference, and if there is a local Neighbourhood Watch then you should always display the signs in your window.”

In the year ending March 2018, the burglary rate in Amber Valley was the lowest of any Derbyshire district, and the figure has seen a dramatic reduction since a high-point in December 2016 — although a rise last winter confirms a seasonal trend.

Home burglary reduction has been set as a priority by very few of the borough’s Safer Neighbourhood forums in recent years, with residents more often concerned by anti-social behaviour and parking - which also fall under the officer’s watch.

She said: “We aren’t doing this because of a rise in crime, or because residents have demanded it, it’s just good basic policing strategy to carry out this kind of crime prevention.

“We want people to know we’re not just here to solve crimes and engage with people after the fact. We can help stop them becoming victims of crime in the first place.”

Despite the much debated figures on budget cuts and their possible impact on community policing, PC Smith says the service is not shifting responsibility on to homeowners.

She said: “It’s about working smarter. We’ll still be there if ever anything happens. We’re not pulling out of anything.

“We’re on the same side as homeowners and we can help them with knowledge on how to beat criminals. We want to empower communities.”

Appointment requests must be submitted by email to avoid adding pressure to police phone lines, but PC Smith hopes residents will help spread the word offline too.

She said: “If you have an elderly friend or neighbour, or someone living on their own, a home visit could be especially beneficial. Please make them aware and help book a visit if they would like one.”

To book, write to your Safer Neighbourhood Team via: AmberValleysntAlfretonAreas@derbyshire.pnn.police.uk; AmberValleysntRipleyAreas@derbyshire.pnn.police.uk; AmberValleysntHeanorAreas@derbyshire.pnn.police.uk; or AmberValleysntBelperAreas@derbyshire.pnn.police.uk.