Local response officers in south London are by paying them special visits.
A few months ago, Inspector Phyllis Rooney and Sergeant Liam Hack, from Team B of Croydon’s emergency response team (ERT) developed an initiative designed to help elderly and isolated people called Operation Nogi.
The idea was born in August 2019 after Inspector Rooney expressed to her sergeants a desire to do more to help the elderly in the community.
It was decided to set-up a welfare car, made-up of two uniformed officers, with the aim of providing reassurance visits to elderly and isolated vulnerable people in Croydon. There was a lot of support for the idea and PCs were encouraged to refer residents they knew who would benefit from the scheme – one PC explained how she already phoned a lonely elderly lady every set of shifts to check on her, which highlighted the already caring nature of the team.
When the project launched, the welfare car was deployed on Team B’s early turns – going out about two shifts out of 10 with an average of four visits per shift. Each visit would last up to an hour with officers giving reassurance, helping to build support networks and crime prevention advice on issues such as banking protocols, rogue traders and cold callers.
To ensure that residents know the visits were legitimate, the appointments are always pre-arranged and the attending officers wear full uniform and have ID.
The team realised that there would be many residents in the community who were not on the police’s radar who would benefit from the initiative, and so they started working with organisations such as Croydon Council’s adult social care team and trading standards officers who were encouraged to make referrals. Trading Standards also provided officers with doorstep packs to supply to residents on visits.
The Met’s Cyber Crime Unit also got on board and started making referrals for elderly victims of courier fraud. The Operation Nogi team also made referrals to MetTrace, which resulted in Police Community Support Officers completing follow-up visits with SmartWater kits, used to mark property and deter burglars.
Operation Nogi very quickly began making a positive difference to many residents’ lives, with one man in Croydon, who had been the victim of bogus builders, telling officers multiple times how much he appreciated them taking the time to check on his welfare and provide advice that will hopefully prevent him being a victim in the future. He also added that it was very reassuring knowing that the police care about people such as him and are able to get out and spend time talking with them.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a reported increase in coronavirus related scams – especially targeting the elderly and vulnerable. The important work that Operation Nogi officers were doing was recognised and the scheme was stepped-up a level and rolled out to 15 ERT teams across the South Basic Command Unit (Croydon, Bromley, Sutton) area to enable more vulnerable people in the community to benefit from the vital visits during such a challenging time.
In line with Public Health England guidelines, the visits have had to change with officers now conducting doorstop visits for a maximum of 15 minutes, keeping at least two meters away and wearing personal protective equipment (gloves and masks.)
As well as continuing to provide reassurance and crime prevention advice, emphasis is also placed on officers asking the resident about their level of isolation, including if they are able to get out and get food and supplies. Officers can then work with partners to try and ensure an appropriate plan is in place for each resident.
Since the outbreak, local supermarkets have also joined the scheme and are donating food and household essentials, which officers take with them on visits and give out as appropriate.
With fewer emergency calls to respond to, officers are hoping they will be able to carry out more Operational Nogi visits.
Many of the residents have not spoken to anyone since the outbreak and they have expressed their gratitude to officers for visiting them – including a 78-year-old man from Coulsdon who was almost conned out of £40,000 in an investment scam, but he avoided being a victim thanks to advice given to him during a visit.
Sergeant Liam Hack, who is the Operation Nogi lead for South BCU, said: “I have been completely blown away by the amazing response we have had for this initiative – from the residents, officers on the BCU willing to get involved and the organisations who have come on board and are helping to make the scheme a huge success.
“It’s nice to know what a difference these visits are making to people’s lives, especially during such a challenging time. The visits have also highlighted the levels of isolation that some people in our communities are living in, which can make them extremely vulnerable, so it’s great that we can make their lives a little less lonely and a little more beatable just by paying them a short 15 minute visit. I hope that the initiative continues to grow so that we can help not only more people in London, but across the UK.”
Chief Inspector Luke Mooney, from South BCU, said: “I’m really proud of the positive impact this initiative is having on helping the most vulnerable elderly and isolated people in our communities during such a challenging time.
“Operation Nogi is our opportunity to make sure that our most vulnerable residents are not targeted by criminals. It’s a really important thing to do and I’m really proud that we are the first BCU in the Met to do this operation. I’d encourage not only other BCUs in the Met to adopt the initiative, but also police forces across the UK – imagine the difference we would be able to make nationwide!
“I’d also appeal to the community for their support to ensure we are reaching everyone who needs our help. If there are people you are worried about, please let us know so we can include them in our operation to safeguard older people. It’s really important during unprecedented times such as these that we look out for one another, especially those who are vulnerable.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, Croydon Council’s cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities, said: “Operation Nogi is building on the excellent work that council teams including adult social care and trading standards already carry out to protect our older residents, and it is particularly important during this unsettling time due to COVID-19.
“From home safety advice to providing fraud prevention tips, this partnership has already made a difference to the lives of some of Croydon’s most vulnerable residents. I look forward to this excellent initiative developing further in the months to come.”
If you would like to refer someone to benefit from the scheme, email the Operation Nogi team at [email protected].