Queen’s Award for Sussex Neighbourhood Watch team

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Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Search Teams are to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2014.

The Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Search Teams are unique. Sussex Police can call out nearly 400 fully trained volunteer searchers, at short notice and very little cost, to help safely restore missing persons to their family and friends or bring closure as soon as possible, without significantly detracting from other important police activities.

The search teams operate primarily in Sussex, but when requested can assist neighbouring police forces.

The three search teams were formed following the coming together of volunteers in the search for Sarah Payne in 2000.

The trained volunteers can be called out by police when needed, primarily to assist in the search for missing high risk vulnerable persons and evidence, which may be crucial to a police enquiry.

To find out more about Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Search Teams follow {https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC_TBSroZdQ |this link|https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC_TBSroZdQ}

The search teams are affiliated to the Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Federation, which in turn is affiliated to the national Neighbourhood & Home Watch Network.

Derek Pratt, chairman of the North Sussex Search Team and deputy chairman of the Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Federation, said: “I am thrilled that Her Majesty has chosen to honour the search teams with this prestigious award.

“It is a great acknowledgement of the dedication shown by all of the search volunteers over many years. I am truly proud of the commitment made by so many people to help others in need during times of crisis, and we are all very grateful to Her Majesty for this recognition, a huge honour.”

Sergeant Rachel Mundy, Sussex Police liaison officer, said: “I have been the police liaison for the volunteer search team based in the north of the county for about seven years, and I work closely with the teams in the west and east of the county too. I am proud to be associated with such dedicated and enthusiastic groups of people. I never cease to be amazed by the turnout and commitment of the volunteers who attend call outs, often at very short notice and in all weather, to help find missing and vulnerable people.

“The volunteers come from all walks of life, many from very interesting backgrounds, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Their ages range from 18 right up to others in their 80s, some students, some working, some retired. They are mainly used in missing person searches, but could also be used for evidence searching and assisting police in other matters, such as hospital documentation during a major incident and helping in bad weather conditions, flooding or severe snow, and they also helped with stewarding at the Olympic torch relay.

“I am so pleased that the search teams have been recognised with this award, which they thoroughly deserve.”

This is not the first time that they have been recognised. In 2012 they were awarded Sussex Police operations department certificates in recognition of their assistance to police and the community of Sussex in searching for vulnerable missing persons.

In 2013 they received the Innovation Award at the inaugural national Neighbourhood & Home Watch Network Awards, held at the Palace of Westminster.

Their first live search occurred in December 2000, when 36 trained volunteer searchers cleared an area looking for a missing elderly woman. The longest search undertaken was in 2006, when over a period of 13 days up to 30 volunteers at a time spent 11 hours a day looking for a missing man in the neighbouring police force area of Hampshire.

Sussex Police Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: “I’d like to congratulate the dedicated volunteers involved in the Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Search Teams. Their work alongside Sussex Search and Rescue, ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex and Sussex Police is crucial in the search for missing and vulnerable people, and I am so pleased that they are being honoured in this way.

“We are incredibly lucky to have so many passionate, dedicated and community minded people coming forward to volunteer their services here in Sussex. They help us keep Sussex safe and are so important in the protection of vulnerable people.”

The Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, said: “These teams of community-spirited volunteers were the first of their kind in the country and continue to support the police during times of need and increased demand.

“I am delighted that the valuable contribution these volunteer searchers make has been recognised with this prestigious award and I would like to thank them all for their continued support in helping to keep Sussex safe.”