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Meet the ordinary people by day who are crimefighters by night
Manhunt Team was set up in October last year as a way to provide an innovative solution to finding wanted people in the city, utilising special constables as the bulk of the team.
The unit is lead by Sergeant Kelly Lambert, assisted by PC Gavin Crute, and draws on help from volunteer special constables, known as specials, to carry out its investigations.
It includes specials Christopher Billin, Stephen Matthews, Clare Godfrey, Adam Brown, Adam Cliff, Chris Kirby and Chris Dimmer.
They were runners-up in the South East Special Constable Team of the Year Award last month and off the back of their success similar units have been rolled out across Sussex.
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On Saturday The Argus joined the team on a raid where seven targets had been identified.
The list was a mixture of men and women aged between 18 and 49 wanted for crimes ranging from assault to shoplifting.
Manhunt Team hit their first address in Brighton hoping to snap up a 49-year-old, who they wanted to speak to for harassing his former partner, but he was not at his flat.
Their second raid was more fruitful as a 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of the theft of an iPad and failing to show for a drug intervention programme.
Special constables Adam Brown and Chris Kirby made the arrest and the suspect was taken back to the station for interviewing.
He has since been bailed to return on April 24.
PC Crute said: “We’ve had a 50% success rate today – hit two addresses and got one arrest – and that’s not unusual.
“Most of the people we’re after are in contact with the police every day of their lives and have been since they were 16 or 17.
“The majority of that police interaction is negative, so we try to be positive with our work.
“It’s a softly-friendly approach to policing and it works – I like being nice to people and people like you being nice to them.”
Describing the arrest Mr Brown, who usually works as a pensions adviser at Legal and General, said: “He was fully compliant but he wanted to talk about things straight away.
“But that’s not our job, that will come down to when he’s interviewed.
“We can make notes of what they say, but that’s often not helpful for them.
“The people we deal with are usually used to the process of being arrested, so they know it’s just easier for them to come quietly.
“And a lot of the targets have alcohol and drug problems, so even if they try and run, they know that they will run out of steam before us so they tend not to bother. There are some that will fight – but we know who they are so we go in prepared.
“Today was a straightforward one.”
Fellow special Chris Kirby, 25, is a technician at Sussex Royal County Hospital in Brighton by day, but volunteers between 50 and 60 hours a month with Manhunt Team.
He said: “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do just to be able to give something back.
“I didn’t even realise becoming a special was an option for me until one of my colleagues at the hospital mentioned that another guy was doing it.
“So I researched it and trained up and now we work together at the hospital and with the Manhunt Team.”
It takes four months to train up as a special constable and both men gave up their Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to bring themselves up to scratch to work for the force.
Mr Brown, 28, said: “I’ve been doing it for 18 months now.
“Interestingly enough I got involved because I had a group of friends who were on the other side of the law and I just wanted to do something about it.
“I felt I wanted to give something back to my community and being a special gives you the opportunity to do that as well as build up your experience.”
After being in the role for 18 months he doesn’t necessarily see himself working his way into a regular constable role, but is enjoying doing his bit.
Mr Brown added: “If I was to become a regular it’d be a pay drop, so it’s not something I’m looking to do now. I’m happy doing what I’m doing at the moment.”
The specials’ team leader believes they are a vital cog in the team and their expertise adds a different approach to policing.
PC Crute added: “The specials bring a lot to the team. I was working with a special whose background was in IT and we were searching for a really vulnerable 13-year-old lad with autism, who had run away from home.
“We were chatting to his friends and this special asked them if the lad was on Facebook, we dropped him a message through his friends, popped them in the car and drove to pick him up.”
The idea for the Manhunt Team stemmed from the Metropolitan Police and since launching has made a number of significant arrests, including finding and arresting a man who had evaded officers since March 2013 while wanted by the courts for 22 offences in Sussex and Hampshire.
He was also wanted for questioning in connection with a sexual offence in Brighton.
Another man wanted since July 2013 in connection with burglary, drugs and sexual offences handed himself in after friends and family contacted by the Manhunt Team persuaded him it would be in his best interests to do so.
Sergeant Lambert said: “The team was created after it was found that locating wanted people in the city was taking a disproportionate amount of time and the team presented an innovative solution, utilising special constables as the predominant resource.
“This sort of initiative is now being tried in neighbouring divisions with similar teams being formed and here in Brighton and Hove has seen excellent results thanks to the hard work and dedication of the specials who give up their own time to undertake policing duties in the city.”
WHAT ARE SPECIALS CONSTABLES?
- Special constables, or specials, hold down ordinary jobs but volunteer their time to work carry out
- the duties of police officers.
- They receive exactly the same training as regular officers.
- Once they are trained up they hold the same powers as full time police officers.
- The vast majority of specials are not paid.
- As long as you are over 18 – anybody can apply to be a special.
SPECIAL CONSTABLES IN NUMBERS
- 366: special constables in Sussex.
- 82,000: hours volunteered by Sussex specials last year.
- 31: years of service as a Sussex special by Martin Hovenden MBE.
- 450: specials wanted by Katy Bourne by 2015.
- 16: minimum hours a special must volunteer a month.
- 20: specials used by Manhunt Team.
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