Warwickshire Police Find VC Relay is a Flexible Tool in Tackling Crime
Warwickshire Police was one of the first police forces in the UK to install and use the VC Relay messaging system; in fact, they were instrumental in helping to develop the system to ensure that it fully met modern policing needs. VC Relay is used extensively across the force to send out mass messages to businesses and other relevant organisations which are part of community schemes such as Rural Watch, Neighbourhood Watch and Business Watch.
“We originally opted to use VC Relay when it was first introduced in 2002 after extensive trial and development, “ explains Peter Guillaume, Business Crime Prevention Manager for Warwickshire Police. “We felt that the system offered all the permutations we needed to be able to effectively communicate with businesses. We needed to match all the technology requirements of business members from email, through to text and mobile telephone for non-office based members such as Rural Watch. It also satisfied our need of being available to all users anywhere on the Warwickshire Police network. There were other products on the market, but we felt that VC Relay offered more flexibility and it also integrated into our corporate voicemail solution also provided by Voice Connect.”
Warwickshire now have over 5,000 businesses on their system, with a Watch scheme on every industrial estate in Warwickshire. “We are tasked on a daily basis through the police tasking system to send out information,” adds Peter, “and are seen as a major player in the tactical options for preventing crime in Warwickshire. The system is widely used and records show that between 1st April 2006 and November 2008 we have sent out 3,190 messages.”
”It is an important part of our tactical options in dealing with business crime.”
Suspicious vehicle apprehended
A business rang the police to pass on the number of a vehicle that they had observed acting suspiciously nearby. Armed with this knowledge, the robbery of an adjacent business was then prevented by police action.
After the London bombing when there were heightened national concerns about security, Warwickshire Police was able to contact all their business members to offer reassurance and ask them to ensure that CCTV systems were all working correctly.
Since installing the system, statistics prove that business crime has decreased. Whilst this success cannot be attributed to the use of VC Relay alone, Peter feels that the improved communications structure has played an important part. “We wanted a product that could communicate with businesses and keep them engaged in the crime prevention process which VC Relay has done very successfully; it is the glue that holds the whole business crime programme together,” he comments. “Crime where the business was a victim or on a business premises is down by 33% in Warwickshire since we started using the system. It is an important part of our tactical options in dealing with business crime. One of my staff recently went to a business and saw all the faxed business watch messages on the canteen notice board – a clear sign that the system is working.”
Peter feels that VC Relay offers flexibility which is an important part of its use: for example, messages can be sent by postcode area and the system offers the facility of combining various watch groups into one message. “We can attach documents to emails and send out a message very quickly to a large body of people,” he explains. “Speed is often key to success in our community alerts and the system gives us this and more. We have also been able to export membership data for local use and mail shots and register members as participants in more than one watch scheme, but with only one record. For example, we have all the post offices in Warwickshire on the system under Post Office Watch for direct communication as a distinct group, but also as members of Shop Watch for other issues. This flexibility has proved invaluable.”
Peter concludes with this advice for police forces and organisations who may be considering installing VC Relay or a similar system. “If you want a good system for targeted communication to a broad section of the community, then this is a good product: think of it as a community communication tool. The management of all the data and entries on the system stays with the user and so complies fully with the Data Protection Act. In addition, Voice Connect is responsive to new ideas and offers good customer support whilst the VC Relay system has proved to have all the flexibility that we need to make our communications work effectively.”