Rod Law with the Bobby Van Picture Ref: 77397-28IT is an organisation that has helped countless people across Wiltshire feel safer in their homes.

The Wiltshire Bobby Van has worked with thousands of vulnerable people over the past seven years.

And now the charity will be carrying out its good deeds with Royal approval with the Duchess of Cornwall becoming its patron.

Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust is a registered charity and was first introduced in Wiltshire in 1998, the first county in the country to

adopt the initiative.

Camilla Parker Bowles has been a trustee of the charity since it was launched but has had to step down from that role, having married into royalty, and is now its patron instead.

The Bobby Van Scheme in Wiltshire now comprises three vans with drivers, who carry out repairs to doors and windows of properties targeted by criminals.

The householders are usually the elderly and the vulnerable including disabled people and victims of domestic violence.

Former police officer Rod Law, who covers the Swindon division for the Bobby Van, said: "We're hoping that now she is the patron of the charity it will increase the profile of all the good work that we do.

"It is such a gratifying job. You can just see the weight lifting off people's shoulders when you secure their homes.

"A lot of them haven't been able to sleep or relax in their own homes after being a victim of crime so our work really does help."

The three drivers Mr Law, Alan Weston and Derrick Sweetman work full time and their main skills include carpentry so they can fit locks, repair forced-entry damage to doors and windows and put in precautions such as door chains.

In addition to the practical repair work, they have both undergone full Home Office

crime prevention training. The drivers also give talks and distribute leaflets to community groups, such as Neighbourhood Watch, to prevent vulnerable and elderly people becoming victims in the future.

Mr Law, who took on the post

in July 2002, is a fully trained carpenter and joiner.

Chief Inspector Paul Williams, of Swindon police, said: "Rod is becoming well known, getting to

know people right across the community.

"He is able to spend time explaining the procedures and is receptive to the concerns of victims. Rod wears a uniform similar to the regular police in order to offer reassurance to victims.

"The scheme gives peace of mind for older people knowing that help is at hand and provides reassurance by making their homes secure against the possibility of further recurrences."

So far this year the Bobby Van has made 121 visits to properties in the Swindon area.

You can contact the Bobby Van on 01249 449652.

Security tips

1. Always keep your back and front door locked even when you are at home or just popping out briefly.

2. If there is someone at your door, stop and think whether you are expecting anyone.

Ensure the back door is locked before answering the front door so that nobody can access your house while you are distracted.

3. If you decide to open the door, put the door bar or chain on first. Keep the chain on while you talk to the person on the doorstep.

When the door is closed, remove the chain in case you need to get out quickly.

4. If a stranger wants to come in and claims that they are from a utility company, the local authority or any other organisation, always ask for their ID, even if you were expecting them genuine callers will happily show you ID.

Close the door and check the ID carefully.

Call the head office if you are still unsure, but use the number from the telephone directory or a recent utility bill, not the one on the card. Remember, only let a caller in if you are absolutely sure that they are genuine if in doubt, keep them out.

'They made me feel safe'

A 75-year-old woman says her life would be hell if it wasn't for the Bobby Van.

The pensioner from Moredon, who did not want to be named, had been the victim of continual harassment from a group of youths even while sitting in her back garden.

On one occasion they threw stones at her and would continually shout abuse.

It got so bad that she was too scared to go outside.

But now, with the help of the Bobby Van, she is finally able to feel safe in her own home and even in her garden.

She said: "They did a wonderful job. You can't imagine how scary it was for me, but now with their help I feel I can get on with my life now. They really gave me some useful advice and fixed my property up so that I could feel as secure as possible."

Another elderly woman, who was a victim of burglary, said: "Having been burgled I was getting scared to go out but the work carried out by the Bobby Van Scheme has made me feel safe."

Jamie Hill