THE streets of Basingstoke and Deane are safer thanks to the dedication of one winner at the A Place to be Proud of Awards.

Stewart Packham, of Cedar Drive, Kingsclere, who took home the Unsung Hero accolade, has been part of the voluntary police force known as Special Constables for 21 years.

During those years, Mr Packham - who is now 61 - has given up countless hours of his free time to help reduce fear of crime among elderly residents of the borough and to befriend young people to help cut down on the causes of crime - without being paid for any of this work.

He is now responsible for organising all the special constables in the borough, who are trained to work alongside the regular police force and provide a vital link between officers and the community.

The Unsung Hero Award, sponsored by Hampshire Constabulary and Basingstoke Andover North Hampshire Industrial Mission (BANHIM), recognises people like Mr Packham who go above and beyond the call of duty.

Announcing the award, host Maggie Philbin said: "The winner has generously given up his free time over the last 21 years. He is an exemplary volunteer."

After receiving his award, Mr Packham told The Gazette: "I was a bit embarrassed to be honest, but I am overwhelmed and flattered to have won.

"I think the real unsung hero is my wife though, for having to put up with me doing this for more than 20 years. I also want to say thanks to those people who nominated me."