A unique community service operation has recently celebrated its 14,000th call out to the help the local population of Swindon, Wiltshire.
The Bobby Van service started out in 1998 and in the 13 years since has been giving help and advice to crime victims in the heart of the Cotswolds. The Bobby Van is in actual fact a basic police van, however, it has been converted into a mobile work station where the drivers can assess the security needs of a home that has been burgled and make the necessary safety requirements on the spot. All operators of the three Bobby Vans that operate in Swindon are skilled locksmiths, carpenters and some have experience as law officers.
It is the proud boast of the service that no security measures set up by the Bobby Vans has ever been compromised. The operators not only install security at burgled homes but also visit local community groups to give them advice on household security issues. The operators are trained in fire safety as well as crime prevention and are known throughout the Wiltshire town.
The cost of running the service is prohibitive and contributions from different sources keep the vans solvent. The uniform and fuel for the Bobby Vans is provided by the police force while the fire service provides them with a base. Other running costs are provided by donations from local groups and it is not always easy to raise the money. It costs well over £200,000 to keep the three vans on the road when commercial vehicle insurance, maintenance, equipment and wages are taken into account.
Robert Hiscox, chairman of the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust and High Sheriff of Wiltshire, said “We like to call ourselves the fifth emergency service. We are enabling people to stay in their own homes. The police are not carpenters or locksmiths. This to me is a huge success and it is incredibly satisfying, even though we sometimes struggle to raise the money.”