Hertfordshire is not only a great place to live and work – it’s a safe place too.
There are many reasons why this is so, not least because of the dedication of police officers, local authorities and other partners who work hard to keep the county safe.
However, there is another group that give up their time unpaid – the county’s volunteers.
Whether they are inspirational leaders who work tirelessly for the betterment of the community or the people who give as little as an hour of their time once a month in order to help a neighbour: all of them contribute in their own way to making the county as safe and secure as it can be.
Some volunteers are very visible. You may have seen a Special Constable out on patrol in Dacorum and mistaken them for a regular police officer. That’s because they are. In many cases Specials face the same dangers and have the same powers of arrest, but yet they do it for free. And some volunteers are less visible. Maybe they offer help and support to victims of crime or vulnerable people, or they work with young people, encouraging them to make the most of their potential and steer them away from trouble.
I’ve been a champion of volunteers since I came into office and my Police and Crime Plan and Volunteer Strategy have put on the record my commitment to encouraging and supporting them.
Billy’s Wish is one such organisation, which I have recently had the pleasure of supporting, in this case with £20,000 from my Commissioner’s Community Fund.
It is named after Billy Dove, as many of you will remember, who was tragically stabbed to death in a Hemel street in November 2011 aged just 21.
An inspirational young man, who won’t be forgotten in Hemel Hempstead, he had intervened in a fight and in the process was stabbed to death. His killer later pleaded guilty to murder in court.
Many young people carry knives in the belief that it is for their own ‘protection’, not realising that by doing so they are actually hugely increasing the chances of hurting others or even themselves with that weapon. Fortunately, neither Hemel nor Hertfordshire generally has a great problem with knives but I think you’ll agree with me that one death is one too many. So anything that can be done to stop this happening again should be done.
For this reason I was proud to be able to support Billy’s Wish with a grant. This investment will help facilitate educating young people across Hertfordshire about the dangers of carrying knives.
I know getting messages across to children and young adults is not always straightforward, particularly during the teenage years when it seems all that many want to do is break away from parental support.
In the same way, sometimes it is difficult for people in authority to get important safety messages across to young people. So it is important we have other people, alongside politicians and police officers, banging the drum when it comes to issues as important as the danger of carrying knives.
This is one area where volunteers can play a significant role, as they often have personal and profound experiences to share, but at the same time no vested interests.
I pay tribute to the on-going work volunteers do to make Hertfordshire the place it is.