* indicates required

Safety first: The eyes and ears of the city centre

“POLICING IS TOO important to be left to the police alone. We need to maximise the eyes and ears in the local community to tackle crime.” The comment of Jason Hogg, Chief constable of Thames Valley Police, speaking to business leaders at a dinner in Milton Keynes.

The “eyes and ears” of Central Milton Keynes derives from a cohort of individuals who have quickly become recognisable within the city centre. Meet the MyMiltonKeynes Ambassadors.

In their distinctive tops, the three ambassadors are directly employed by the Business Improvement District and act as a conduit between the BID and visitors, businesses, and employees within the BID area.

They collectively clock up more than 4,000 hours on patrol each year, rom welcoming people and supporting events, to reporting areas of concern, including health and safety-related problems and issues surrounding homelessness. The Ambassadors have proved a vital component in keeping the city safe – one of the five strategic aims of the BID.

They also work closely with Thames Valley Police, including the police officer who is dedicated to the BID area, often acting as a conduit between the businesses and those in authority.

George Kufa leads the BID Ambassador team. “Our role varies greatly, and no two days are the same,” he says. “We are regularly asked for help finding people’s cars and have become recognisable to some of the elderly people who frequent the shopping centre – they like to see a familiar face.” The Ambassadors’ work can also include reporting concerns around broken streetlights and drug paraphernalia and sourcing the best areas to install new monitoring and safety equipment.

New CCTV cameras are identifying crime and anti-social behaviour hot spots around the city centre. The Ambassadors carried out a comprehensive audit, cross- referencing with a Thames Valley Police crime heat map, to pinpoint the best locations for the cameras to guarantee maximum impact.

“No stone is left unturned within Central Milton Keynes,” says George pictured above. “We are representing all five strategic themes of the BID – Safe, Sparkling, Amazing, Intelligent and Mobile – and while safety and cleanliness is of course vital, we also celebrate the successes of business within CMK and support the fantastic events which are put on.”

The Ambassadors have forged strong links with city charities and organisations so they know exactly who to turn to when challenges arise. Identifying so called ‘grot spots’ of the city is also high on each Ambassador’s radar.

“As a city it is inevitable that we will see anti-social behaviour,” says George. “But the fact that we are ‘on the ground’ means that we can act quickly and, if we cannot rectify the situation ourselves, contact the relevant organisation or charity to step in.”

Homelessness is of course an ongoing challenge within the city and the Ambassadors are in regular communication with homeless charities to help get people off the streets. But, George explains, it is not merely a case of reporting the issue and bringing the relevant organisation in to manage the situation.

“Our roles are diverse and, consequently, we have the time to engage with people and we spend time listening to homeless people. In some cases, we have managed to repatriate them back to their home countries or reconnect them to family.”

The Ambassadors do not have a background in policing. George worked as a journalist in Africa for many years in Africa. However, his Master’s degree and training in Youth and Community holds him in good stead for his Ambassador role.

Stepping into the role meant first embarking upon an intensive induction process. “We were taught how to administer first aid and given training on diversity and inclusion to motivate positive, non-biased attitudes within the city,” George recalls.

Speaking at the dinner, hosted by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership, the Chief Constable pictured right conceded that recruitment and retention within Thames Valley Police is tough. As the ‘eyes and ears of the city,’ the Ambassadors are integral to keeping the BID area clean and making the thousands of people who work and visit CMK on a daily basis feel safe.

For further information about MyMiltonKeynes, visit www.mymiltonkeynes.co.uk and keep up to date with all of the latest information from your Business Improvement District by following @MyMiltonKeynes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

More from Central Milton Keynes:

More features articles: