Dunkirk veteran takes on enemy closer to home

WARTIME medals from military operations in France, North Africa and Italy prove that Ted Cheek has never been one to shirk a challenge.

So when police appealed for help in ridding a Yorkshire village of yobs and road hogs, he rolled his sleeves up and put his name forward.

Using his "noddle" to outsmart offenders, he began offering crime prevention advice to residents from an incident desk in the Mechanics' Institute in Denholme, near Bradford.

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Six years on, Mr Cheek is still handing out advice from West Yorkshire Police, albeit a little less regularly. The locals forgive him for that – he is 90, after all.

"It all began as a bit of a joke and it started when I was 84," he said. "The police wanted to come out and develop these contact points in all the various villages and it was a just a case of recording what people wanted.

"I thought, 'if it's just a case of writing everything down, then I can do that'.

"Somehow or other, my interest got back to an inspector and I was invited to a meeting where he started to explain the situation.

"He started talking about age and said it was suitable for people up to 70, so I said 'I might as well go home then'.

"When he said he could stretch to 75, I told him my age and he promised to make me tea boy!"

Mr Cheek was put on the contact point rota and began helping cut crime in the village where he and wife Mary, 85, have lived for more than 60 years.

His hours have been reduced recently – "They ask me to fill in when someone rings in sick" – but he can reel off an impressive list of successes from his time on the beat.

"We have to deal with speeding and yobbos, a lot of cases of dog fouling, noise and things like that," he said.

"What we really are is a set of eyes and ears for the local coppers. We deal with the little petty things that go on in the village that, quite frankly, must be a flaming nuisance to the police force.

"Anything we hear about that is against the law, we take a note of it and report it to them.

"It's been very useful. Those idiots who used to charge around on motorbikes or in 4x4s don't do it any more because we've put a stop to it."

Mr Cheek, a retired steel- rolling company rep, served in theArmy during the Second World War and was among more than 300,000 soldiers in the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940.

He is one of hundreds of volunteers who give up their spare time to help West Yorkshire Police tackle crime.

Another is Russell Dunn, 43, from Bradford, who has joined the force's Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, which solves murders, rapes and other serious cases.

Working alongside detectives, Mr Dunn has trawled through hours of video footage showing violence during a demonstration by the English Defence League in Bradford.

He was also asked to take calls from the public after the force appealed on the BBC show Crimewatch for information about a Huddersfield house fire in which a seven-year-old boy died.

The role has helped Mr Dunn return to a working environment after a tragic decade in which he was diagnosed with cancer and his wife Regine died from a brain tumour.

The former BT buyer, who was medically retired in 2003, has brought up his two sons, aged 14 and 12, on his own.

"I was suicidal," he said. "Only the thought of leaving my sons as orphans stopped me ending my life.

"The volunteering allows me to get back to being with people. It has made me have a lot more respect for the police in so many ways and made me realise how professional and dedicated these people are.

"I think it's brilliant because we free up their time to dothe detective work which they can do but we can't."

The economic downturn has triggered a surge in applications from volunteers to work at West Yorkshire Police.

Chief Inspector Jaene Booth, who oversees volunteers' development, said: "Since the recession we have been almost inundated with interest from people wanting to work with us to expand their experience and to put it on their CV.

"As well as police service volunteers, we have 466 special constables and we are increasing that number. The Home Office is trying to expand the specials' strength from 14,000 to 20,000 nationally by the end of December 2011, not least to support policing of the Olympics in 2012.

"We gain a lot of benefits from the volunteers and they report getting a lot of personal satisfaction and fulfilment from working with us.

"For most of them, it's about giving something back directly to the community."

What we really are is the eyes and ears for the local coppers. We deal with the little petty things that go on.