Life on the beat with PSCO Sarah Conderson

This article was written in August 2012

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A PCSO?

 I have been a Police Community Support officer for seven years, working from Moldgreen Police Station for all of that time.

WHAT JOBS DID YOU DO BEFORE THAT?
I left school at 16 and started a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) studying Sports Studies, for several years I was a gym manager and aerobics teacher for a small privately owned gym in Halifax. My previous job before joining as a PCSO was at a private sports club called QUEENS SPORTS CLUB at Savile Park in Halifax. Whilst working there I worked as a gym Instructress for 5 years and as a bar and catering manageress for 4 years. This involved the running of the bar and organising events, functions and private functions.

 WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A PCSO?
When I was younger I had always wanted to be a Police Officer, but never did anything about it. A friend told me about PCSO’s and I enquired further in to what the job involved. I was ready for a change in career and decided to give it a go. My initial intentions were to join as a PCSO to see if I liked the type of work with the possibility of then applying to join the regular police force. I became a PCSO and several years on have still not filled in an application form to become a regular police officer.

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT ACTUALLY IS THE ROLE OF A PCSO IN KIRKHEATON?
PCSO’s have been employed by West Yorkshire Police since 2003 and have proved to be a valuable asset, working in support of police officers colleagues. PCSO’s provide a visible uniformed on street presence, helping to improve the quality of life in local communities and offering greater public reassurance. PCSO’s are not a replacement for police officers, but we do many job’s that often take highly trained police officers away from more appropriate duties. We are employed as members of support staff and work on Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPT) alongside police officers. It is a unique role, designed to tackle anti-social behaviour, the fear of crime and issues affecting the quality of people’s lives. We deal with reports of vandalism and other suspicious activity, provide crime prevention advice, support victims of crime and submit intelligence regarding crime and community issues.

WHAT POWERS DO YOU HAVE?
The work that PCSO’s do means that they need fewer powers than regular Police Officers. These powers are primarily aimed at addressing anti social behaviour and providing a safer environment for our communities.
A small selection include: confiscation of alcohol and tobacco from young persons and in a designated areas, removal of abandoned vehicles and in certain circumstances the detention of offenders for up to 30mins until the arrival of a police officer.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE JOB – WHAT MAKES IT WORTH WHILE?
My job is very varied and each day is different. I like the fact that on coming into work each day you don’t know what is going to happen.
One of the main things I enjoy is meeting different people, each day you meet someone new, either walking about talking to people or visiting them at home. I enjoy going into the schools and talking to the kids, for example the drugs input lessons (SPICED) which I teach to year 6 pupils, if I at least stop some of them from trying or getting involved with drugs then I’ve done my job correctly.

I can’t lie by saying I don’t enjoy being in the police van with the blue lights flashing and the siren on. It is an adrenaline rush and exciting.

 WHAT ARE ITS DOWNERS?
I hate getting up early, I love my bed. One of the main downers is getting up at 6am in the morning in the cold wet weather, its dark when you’re travelling to work and dark when you’re going home. Also when it snows I hate having to drive in it. It’s also unpleasant when it pouring down with rain and you get soaked through, and people drive through puddles trying to soak you.

ANYTHING FUNNY HAPPENED?
I once spent an hour looking for a loose cow in Almondbury which I never did find and I once chased a group of ducklings down the middle of Wakefield Road. Passing motorists and members of the public came to the rescue and eventually they were ushered towards the beck at Waterloo. One of the most memorable was when an elderly lady could not find her door keys and I offered to help her look, I put my hand into her handbag and pulled out a set of false teeth. The keys were in her coat pocket all along.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU TRY TO BE PART OF THE COMMUNITY?
I like to get involved with the community by spending time in my beat area talking to people and going to local meetings. I spend a lot of time in the local schools getting involved with activities such as parking problems, dog fouling and I also teach a drug’s awareness programme to years 5 and six. I have recently helped to set up Athletics’ programme and after schools club. I have also helped to set up numerous neighbourhood watch schemes in the area.

WHAT PROJECTS HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED IN RECENTLY?
My recent projects include working closely with partner agencies, such as the Kirklees dog warden. Recently in Kirkheaton village there has been an increase with dog fouling on pavements and in parks. Although this is not a police issue the knock on affect in the community is a problem. Children have to walk into the road to avoid mess on the pavement. This could cause great danger to themselves and others. I have also spent a lot of time at the school trying to tackle parking problems. This has been an ongoing problem with people parking on pavements and on corners, obstructing the view for other drivers and pedestrians.

Also I have been working with Sue Bowyer to set up 3 new neighbourhood watch schemes in the village. My next project will be to arrange the SPICED drugs awareness sessions in the school.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL SHIFT?
No! Each day is different, on coming on duty we always have a team briefing to go through and discuss any overnight crime issues. (This is usually with a cup of tea).I then look at which area I need to be in that day and who I need to go and see. I try and plan my route to do my various jobs. Some days you can walk around and not really come across anything and then on another day you are run off your feet.