Sue Bowyer [YT member responsible for reporting on Community Safety Matters to Yetton Together] writes:
Recently I was privileged to be invited to spend a day pounding the streets of Kirkheaton and Dalton with Sarah Conderson to sample some of her life as a Police Community Support Officer [PCSO] in our community.
After being fitted with a stab vest [very heavy as they contain metal plates] we headed for the streets.
First stop to photograph a cannabis factory discovered in Dalton the night before. The ‘factory’ turned out to be the garage of a semi detached house. It was rather sad to see children’s toys scattered around the garage full of the paraphernalia of growing the cannabis plant. A purpose built black, foil lined tent complete with bright lights housed 4 adult plants ready for harvesting occupied much of the garage space.Nearby was a ‘nursery’ of about a dozen smaller plants getting ready to be moved on into the tent. The smell was memorable!
Then on to reassure an elderly man who had been robbed the day before. He had left the door to his upstairs flat open to enjoy some of the afternoon’s sunshine. Two youths had taken the opportunity to barge their way past him up the stairs, into his flat and take his mobile phone. All they got was a cheap phone but they left a victim in his 80’s shaken and frightened by the whole incident.
The next hour or two was spent walking the streets talking to people as we went. Sarah said this was an important aspect of her work as it built up trust and people were reassured at her presence.
Then up to Kirkheaton by bus! [ no Panda car for the PCSO!] Here we went to see a mother who was at her wits end as she had found out that her two teenage sons were taking cannabis. Sarah spoke to one of the sons to warn of the health dangers [ mental illness]and how drug convictions could put paid to any chance of following his chosen career. She arranged to return in a few weeks time.
We then went on to visit another mother with a similar problem. Her son had gone off the rails after starting to take cannabis at an early age.
While there is support for the children through school and other agencies, parents often have to cope alone. Both parents were grateful to be able to talk to someone about their own fears and feeling.
Then back to Moldgreen Station to write up the day [ and to remove that hot, heavy stab vest!] In all I spent about 6 hours with Sarah. I found the whole experience illuminating and fascinating. I can’t wait for our next foray – a Saturday night shift! Watch this space!
Night Patrol – On the Town on a Saturday Night October 2012
Sue Bowyer writes: As the person responsible for the Community Safety aspect of the community action plan I have been privileged to go out on the beat with Sarah Conderson, our PSCO to see at first hand her role in the community. Previously I accompanied her on a day time patrol but in early October I went with her to sample life on the streets after dark and on a Saturday night at that!
The evening shift started at 5 pm and after donning my (very heavy and rather too big) stab vest we hit the streets.
I got lucky that night as for that evening Sarah had been paired up with ‘Zed’ a special* and would be patrolling in a panda car for some of the night.
First call was to investigate a complaint about a group of children playing on a large pile of earth and vegetation in the Rawthorpe region. It was still light when we arrived. Sarah reminded the children, who were doing no harm, of the dangers of crawling into the great pile of branches etc which presumably was the start of a bonfire and to leave if older youths came. She gave then all a polo and we left. We did return later to check if everything was OK .
We then slowly cruised around the area checking known hot spots in Kirkheaton, Dalton Bank etc for any signs of potential trouble but all was quiet.
It was then I learned not to use the ‘Q’ word in front of PC’s as it seems to tempt fate. They said after saying that, quite often all hell ‘s let loose! And things certainly did start happening soon after.
On returning to Moldgreen ‘box’ Sarah and I transferred to working with Michelle in a large van complete with mini cell in the back. Michelle was accompanied by Amy, another special and we spent the rest of the night with them.
9pm call to check out a gang of youths causing a disturbance on some waste land in Moldgreen. Although we were then within the 20 minutes response time allowed they had all gone.
Then on to a well known kerb crawling area near town to check it out. There was one car parked and when the police van drew up alongside, it quickly moved off. We followed it for a while and then headed into town to help out there.
A call came over the radio reporting that a male had left a town centre restaurant clutching his half eaten meal. Officers were dispatched to round him up and return him and the plate. ( Still in his hand) to the restaurant!
Next a report of a male collapsed in Market Street. Michelle responded and found the male who was blind drunk being violently sick in a doorway surrounded by his mates. They said they were celebrating his 20 th birthday & that he had had a lot of red wine. After reassuring Michelle that his parents were on their way to pick him up we left to answer a call lower down in town
By now ( 10:30) King Street was starting to buzz. Girls in various states of undress were beginning to totter around on their 6 inch heels falling into the numerous bars in the area. As one PC dryly commented ” I wear more in bed!”
We had been called to assist a drunk young woman who was on her own and had no money for a taxi. She was deemed to be vulnerable and so it was decided that we would take her home. She climbed into the back of the vehicle and then promptly started to complain about us not immediately leaving and on how uncomfortable it was! We left her a little way from her home on her insistence as she ‘didn’t want her parents to know she had come home in a police van’
Then back to town. Again we positioned ourselves half way up King Street and watched the little unfolding dramas of the evening – an empty wallet handed in, a drunk trying to gain entry to a bar etc. A call came in directing us to the address where only 20 minutes before we had left the girl! Neighbours had called as they had been disturbed by the girl trying to gain entry to her home. She had caused a lot of damage to the door and was shouting and screaming. A decision was made to her arrest her – partly for her own benefit as she was inadequately dressed on such a cold night and also partly for the sake of the neighbours as she had no intention of staying quiet. So back to the police station to book her a cell for the night.
And so the evening went on – quick responses to potential trouble in various part of town meant driving with the blue light and siren on. A very exciting experience – then more arrests , chats with Street Angels **etc. At one point we followed a taxi ( with the sirens on)as a Street Angel reported that,as a woman had entered the taxi, a male had pushed his way in despite her protestations. On stopping the taxi it was found that the man and woman were a couple and had had an argument. Instead of thanking her for her concern for his partner’s safety, the man berated Michelle and told her that he was a tax payer and that she should be out finding a child murderer!
At 2:30 we made our way back to the Moldgreen ‘box’ to finish off for the night. Just after 3am I gratefully tumbled into bed, exhausted but very satisfied with my night’s experiences.
My most enduring memory of my night out was the compassion of all the PCs I came into contact with. It would be very easy for them to become cynical as they see the same scenarios unfolding week after week but I did not see any of this. Drunk, vulnerable young people were looked after, a beggar was treated to a warm drink and victims were reassured.
*Specials are trained unpaid volunteers (they get expenses) who have the same powers as a PC. They can only be distinguished from a PC by their number which always begins with an ‘8’ . They have to commit to working 16 and half hours per month. ‘Zed’ who lives in Rochdale, has been a special for 8 years because he ‘enjoys helping people’
**Street Angels are members of local churches who patrol the town at weekends. Their brief is to help vulnerable young people especially girls by offering them water, a warm blanket or getting them in a taxi home etc
My thanks go to Sarah Conderson for setting up the evening and to Sergeant Nicola Brown for allowing me to accompany her officers. Also. I would like to thank Zed, Michelle and Amy for patiently answering all my questions and making me feel so welcome. It was a fascinating experience – I just wish I’d known about the role of the special 40 years ago – I’d have been in there!