crime news 

“If I didn’t work, I got beaten up”

by Mark Burns Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner

September saw the latest round of my Safer Communities Fund give out hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of grants for initiatives to increase community safety and prevent crime.

Over £217,000 was distributed to 42 community projects who will work across West Yorkshire.

Of the 42 groups, 8 will specifically deliver their projects in Bradford, sharing £45,000 of funding between them.

One such group was Bradford Street Angels who received £5733 to help support vulnerable people in the city centre.

This was the 16th grant round under my Safer Communities Fund and it’s fantastic to say that since it launched in 2014 it has now given back over £2.8m to nearly 660 projects across West Yorkshire helping to keep our communities safe and feeling safe.

I am very proud to be able to support these initiatives and I really want to show my appreciation for the extraordinary work these groups and volunteers do in our communities. Work which is centred on the dedication and passion of the local people running them and making a real difference on the ground throughout West Yorkshire.

The next round of the Safer Communities Fund opens for application on Monday 7th October 2019. More information will be released in due course on the website and also available by contacting the office on 01924 294000.

“If I didn’t work I got beaten up” those were the words of a survivor of modern slavery who spent 15 years trapped in forced labour who spoke to my office to help raise public awareness of the issues.

Four videos of the survivor have been released and are available on my website and YouTube channel. The videos highlight the treatment the survivor suffered at the hands of criminals and the local partnership support he has subsequently received having been rescued.

The aim of the videos is to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery among the general public because your help in reporting suspicions is absolutely crucial.

Please report any suspicions, no matter how small, to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or to the Police.

General indicators of human trafficking or modern slavery can include signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, irregular activity at homes or addresses, poor living conditions and working long hours for little or no pay. By reporting suspicions you could be saving a lives.

It’s hard to comprehend both the horrendous situation this survivor has been through and simply how anyone could treat another human being in this manner. But it is pleasing to know that he is now safe and being support by a fantastic organisation, the Palm Cove Society, who have enabled him to rebuild his life and live independently.

Hearing this survivors story makes me even more determined, as the national lead Police and Crime Commissioner on modern slavery, to safeguard the victims and survivors of this horrific abuse and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Finally, I am looking for community focused compassionate volunteers to join my Independent Custody Visitor (ICV) scheme.

ICVs have an independent role, checking that people held in police custody (not yet convicted of any offence) are being properly treated.

They can enter a custody suite unannounced, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and are expected to make at least 24 visits spread evenly over a 12 month period. Visitors speak directly to detained people to ensure that detainees understand their rights and entitlements whilst in custody, and check on their general feeling and welfare.

Visits are always conducted in pairs, and visitors report only to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC). Issues raised by ICVs are dealt with anonymously by the OPCC, and are taken up directly with West Yorkshire Police.

ICVs perform a crucial role in championing welfare and transparency. It is only right that this important work is carried out by independent local volunteers so I am looking for people from any background and from all sections of our communities who believe in upholding standards and care about the treatment of others.

The recruitment windows closes on Sunday 20 October so if you would like to become an ICV or to find out more visit www.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/get-involved/custody-visiting.aspx  to download an application pack or call my office on 01924 294000.

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