​A pioneering Police-led initiative to make Sutton a welcoming borough for people with disabilities was highlighted by Sutton Borough Commander Dave Stringer at the Sutton Neighbourhood Watch annual meeting at Civic Offices on Tuesday, 28 June.

Chief Supt Stringer explained that the project sought to address the concerns which may discourage or prevent people with physical or hidden disabilities from taking a full and active part in their local community or from reporting being a victim of crime.

The initiative involves police officers in Sutton receiving training this summer from external organisations that work with people with disabilities and vulnerabilities including Sutton Mencap, Orchard Hill College, Victim Support and the Sutton Centre for Independent Living & Learning (SCILL).

Police are also launching a mentoring scheme to team up individual neighbourhood officers with people with disabilities. Around 30 organisations, which specialise in supporting people with disabilities and vulnerabilities, have been putting forward candidates for mentoring.

Plans are also underway to distribute 10,000 support cards to people with disabilities to put in their Freedom pass travel wallets to show whenever they have contact with a police officer. The card will explain their disability and what this may mean for their behaviour. Disability support days are also being planned at Sutton Life Centre during Hate Crime week in October.

Chief Supt Stringer told NHW members: “If you have a limiting disability you are far more likely to be a victim of crime when you go into a public space or use public transport – with public transport being something they rely on more than people without disabilities.

“They can become anxious and fearful and we need to help them be safe and to feel safe. Our streets, parks, town centres and public transport need to be welcoming to everyone. This is a really important piece of work for us to help people who most need our help and support,” he said.

Chief Supt Stringer, who said he started his police career as a neighbourhood officer, wanted to see closer links between Safer Neighbourhood Teams and local NHW ward co-ordinators to make the most of the unprecedented coverage that NHW had with its 5,300 members across the borough – making it the largest NHW in London.

“NHW has an important role to play in reducing social isolation amongst the most vulnerable in our communities. We need to think how can we – as a community – wrap around them and work with organisations to get the support and friendship they need?”

He also urged members to report anyone acting suspiciously in their street, such as people hanging around near a vehicle or property. We would rather come out and check that everything is OK than to find later that someone has become a victim of crime.

Stronger links and greater communication between Police and NHW would help us reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and support vulnerable people, he said. “Sutton is one of the safest boroughs in London. Let’s make it one of the happiest too.”

NHW members also heard from Adrian Tudway, Head of Operations, Crimestoppers Trust, which is based in Wallington, and Richard Field, Station Manager, Sutton Fire Station.

NHW awards were presented during the meeting to PCSOs Nadine Campbell, of Worcester Park and Nonsuch Safer Neighbourhoods Teams and Carol Gurney, of Sutton West Safer Neighbourhood Team, David Duncan, NHW Vice-Chair and Treasurer, and Alex Catterall, of the Safer Sutton Partnership Service. The awards were presented by NHW President Guy Ferguson, NHW Chair Heather Shaw and Sutton Borough Commander Dave Stringer.