Haredi community leader praises officer’s award-winning engagement work on Canvey Island
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“We always know that the police are there to support us, which is very reassuring”
When six Haredi Orthodox Jewish families decided to swap north London for new lives on Canvey Island, PC Ian Risden contacted the community to offer his help as they made the transition from the capital to the Essex coast.
Community leader Joel Friedman said that Ian’s engagement work and initiatives such as a newsletter for the Haredi community, regular police visits to the synagogue, and events where Haredi children have mixed with officers and got to see police vehicles and equipment up close have helped the families settle in new surroundings.
The move has been such a success that 98 Haredi families now call Canvey home. “So almost touching that magic number of 100,” said Joel.
The community considered moving to a number of different places in the south-east but Canvey’s community spirit, housing and proximity to London were deciding factors.
Joel said: “It ticked all the boxes and felt like a place we could see a Haredi community taking off. I’ve been here six years and predominantly we’ve had a fantastic positive experience. The overwhelming majority of the Canvey community were welcoming to us.”
The Haredi community adhere strictly to halakhah – Jewish law – and establishing themselves on Canvey involved setting up a community centre, synagogue and school.
Prior to the first families moving in 2016, Ian, a Community Safety and Engagement Officer, met with members of the Haredi community through contacts at the Metropolitan Police.
Joel said: “Families are moving from Stamford Hill, which is a comfort zone. Coming out to a different community, they may feel a little bit anxious about that so to have full police support is reassuring and we’re grateful for that.
“Even before we moved here, we met with the community policing team and they’ve been nothing but supportive. They are always engaging with us and asking if we have any concerns. The engagement has grown as the community has grown.”
PC Ian Risden and Joel Friedman hold regular meetings
Joel said that although there were incidents of intolerance when they first arrived, the wider community and the police have worked together.
“There are not many problems but when there are, we nip them in the bud. We’ve tried to make sure people don’t see us as an easy target, which was a bit of struggle at the beginning, but the community and the police put their foot down and that has gone away. Every now and again things happen but I’m happy to say the police treat it with the seriousness it deserves.
“We always know the police are there to support us, which is very reassuring.”
PC Ian Risden said that his job is all about reaching out to all communities so if they are subject to anti-social behaviour or crime, they feel comfortable to report it.
As the majority of the Haredi community do not use technology, a new system was developed so they could report crime by dropping handwritten messages into a box at the synagogue that Ian and his team would collect.
Ian said the strength of the relationship that has developed has been thanks to the “two-way street” of dialogue between the police and the Haredi community and he praised Joel and his team for being “extremely accommodating”.
In recognition of Ian’s dedication, he was awarded the George Cook Trophy for public and partnership work at the Essex Police Awards.
He said: “It’s always nice to have your work recognised and I was as shocked as anybody on the night because there were so many outstanding candidates, but it’s not about receiving awards, it’s about knowing you’ve done a job that has probably changed the community.”
Despite Ian’s modesty, Joel is in no doubt about the impact Ian has had.
Joel said: “It’s important for us that everyone in the community can speak directly to the police. Ian has been ever so accessible, which is very much appreciated.
“Ian’s award is very well deserved. In fact, he should have won it a few years before!”