West Midlands Police has teamed up with some of the region’s most experienced Search & Rescue specialists to bolster its missing people investigations. The force has struck an agreement with four specialist volunteer groups: Search & Rescue in Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Severn and Central to offer expert support when officers are called to search open land.
The agreement gives police teams access to around 150 highly-trained individuals in scouring large expanses of countryside, hills and water, who can be scrambled to scenes within an hour.
Chief Inspector Nick Rowe from West Midlands Police’s Operations Support Unit (OSU) said the agreement is a major boost to the force’s search capability: “These groups are highly skilled in looking for lost walkers or mountaineers; we don’t have too many mountains in the West Midlands but we still have large swathes of open land in Solihull, north Birmingham and border areas like the Clent Hills. And they are trained to search confined spaces like quarries or caves which feature heavily across the old mining regions on the Western side of the force. The volunteers bring with them assets like search dogs, 4×4 vehicles and boats. They are better placed to search open land and water than our front-line officers… this deal gives us more resilience to keep officers out on the streets and policing our communities.”
West Midlands Police has been working towards a formal arrangement with the volunteer groups having seen the vital support role Search & Rescue played in the hunt for missing girl April Jones in Wales in October 2012.
Andy Spry from Leicestershire Search & Rescue, said: “We’re very pleased to have been invited to take part in this collaboration…it’s a great opportunity to all work together and showcase the fantastic work we do. We have helped West Midlands Police before with challenging searches, the first time being on New Year’s Eve 2013 around Queslett Nature Reserve looking for a vulnerable pensioner who’d gone missing from her Great Barr home. The formal agreement means we can provide a more coordinated response…we will focus on search requests in Solihull, Coventry and east Birmingham and we would aim to have teams on the ground within 90 minutes after the callout.”
Photo: (Leicestershire Search & Rescue)
Last year, volunteers attached to Staffordshire Search & Rescue collectively dedicated 2,069 hours helping in police searches during 2014. Rachel Good said “We are delighted to be working more closely with West Midlands Police. We are trained specifically to search for vulnerable children and adults in both urban and rural areas. Each year our specialists train for over 8,000 hours, developing life-saving skills in search techniques, water and flood rescue, casualty care, search planning, crime scene preservation, and understanding missing person behaviour. We are on-call day and night to assist emergency services and bring missing people to safety.”
Photo: (Staffordshire Search & Rescue)