1. ITV Report

The horse riding, drone operating volunteers who boost police numbers

Police forces in our region are supporting a national campaign to recruit more special constables and volunteers.

It's called Step Up, and it's hoped to encourage people to help support their local communities.

It comes at a time when the police are having to manage with tighter budgets.

Sarah Hills is a horseback volunteer Credit: ITV News Anglia

In Suffolk, there's been a significant increase in the number of volunteers. In 2008 it was 30. Today there are around 200.

Sarah Hills is one of the 20 horseback volunteers. She regularly patrols the roads and bridleways close to her home near Beccles.

"There are less police these days," she says. "The response times aren't as quick as we'd like them to be. By having this it helps the force. "

Sarah Hills regularly patrols roads and bridleways Credit: ITV News Anglia

She has no real powers but sees herself as the eyes and ears in a rural community.

"I believe that being on horseback, we have advantages in able to see over hedgerows. especially with hare coursing which is currently a big feature. We're also out looking for fly tipping and other sources of rural crime, break ins, things like that. The advantage we have is that we are obviously covering remote spots that thieves like to target."

– Sarah Hills
Scott Waring is one of 200 special constables in Suffolk Credit: ITV News Anglia

When Scott Waring isn't working as a ticket inspector on the London Underground, he's a special constable in Suffolk.

"We're welcomed with open arms because of the fiscal nature of the police" he said. "We are a resource to them and have the same powers as a regular police officer."

He's one of 200 special constables in Suffolk.

Karen Harris, the specials, volunteers and cadets manager in Suffolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"They come to us for ten weekends over a 20 weekend period and they are taught all aspects of the law, " said Karen Harris, the specials, volunteers and cadets manager in Suffolk.

"They then go out and they are buddied or they shadow an officer or a special constable that's already experienced and they learn all aspects of being a special constable and it's a fantastic opportunity to support the community"

In Norfolk the need for more community support has been intensified because of the Chief Constable's recent controversial proposal to axe the county's 150 police and community support officers.

Helen Maxwell paid for her own training to operate police drones Credit: ITV News Anglia

Helen Maxwell's one of them. She's paid for her own training and licence to become a drone pilot with the force but expects to get her redundancy notice in the New Year.

"Numerous people have come up to my colleagues and myself when we are on patrol and are very disappointed that we're not going to be that visible presence, " Helen said. "They're sad about that and regard it as a loss."