Underfunded and even having to pay for their own boots, Spalding’s police are still proud to walk the beat. Recent focus on anti-social behaviour has put the local police force in the firing line. But down at the station in Westlode Street partnerships with other public services are helping to keep officers on the frontline. Reporter Chrissie Redford joined officers to see how the local service is run...
It’s just before 2pm and an American-sounding man arrives in reception at Spalding Police Station, asking for help with a DVLA issue.
He is politely told it is not a matter for the police and he would have to contact the DVLA.
The man leaves, muttering under his breath: “The f***ing police are rubbish here anyway.”
This was not the first time the police have been called names and it probably won’t be the last – which is one of the main reasons for me being here.
Sgt Stuart Hurst once told me he had worked in the force all over the country and had developed very broad shoulders.
He said: “I am only human and that goes for my PCSOs – but I can honestly say I have never worked anywhere where there has been a more dedicated bunch.”
Running a few minutes late for our meeting, he apologises that he has been tied up with admin.
Rather than stay in reception he lets me join him in his office and explains he was replying to MP John Hayes regarding a noise nuisance complaint.
The MP had written to the Chief Constable Neil Rhodes and it had been passed down to him to be dealt with.
Sgt Hurst said: “I was never trained to be a typist but this is something we have to do now.”
While he finishes I am taken into the operations room, where PCSOs are preparing for the pumpkin parade.
Eight specials and five PSCOs have changed shifts or come in on days off to help officers deal with the influx of visitors.
Two of the PCSOs are arranging a trip to Grantham to pick up a CCTV van.
PCSO Paul Coupland said: “The van will be put in anti-social behaviour hotspots – it’s a good deterrent to trouble makers.”
PCSO Ryan Ellis was looking forward to the event. He said: “It’s important that families feel safe at these events and not threatened by the presence of troublemakers.”
Many of the town’s worse troublemakers are now on a Sentinel list shared with South Holland District Council.
If someone is reported they are entered on a list and colour categorised – green, yellow and red – depending on what action is to be taken.
PC Jon Rigby, ASB co-ordinator for South Holland, said police have been working with council community safety officers to combat street drinking in the town.
Since May, 250 people have been added to the list, but only three remained in the red category.
He said: “We hope in six monhs we will see a downward trend. It’s all about educating people.”
G4S has arrived in the yard with the Street To Suite custody van that takes prisoners to the cells in Boston.
They stay at Spalding station from 7pm to 7am, Thursday to Saturday, to be on hand if trouble breaks out in the town.
Manager Adelle Lighton said: “By removing this duty from the police we can save officers up to four hours when they can be on the frontline.
“Lincolnshire Police and G4S were the first to spearhead this in the country and it is one of our success stories.”
I join PCSOs Zara Nacheva and Lisa Waterfall to leave the station and go on the beat around Spalding.
We are heading for the town centre to meet a council community safety officer and look for anyone drinking in the street ahead of the festival.
Turning left, we take the route along the riverbank in front of the Cley Hall Hotel where the much-publicised sex bench used to be.
Today all is quiet and PCSO Waterfall is hoping she sees the family of ducks she has been watching on previous shifts.
After meeting up with the community safety officer, we search the drinking hotspots, including Abbey Path.
I’m told complaints along the path about drinking and fly-tipping have dropped recently – since our ‘We’ve Had Enough Campaign’. PCSO Nacheva said: “It’s partly down to the weather. People don’t drink in the streets so much when it’s cold or wet.”
Last stop is the toilets in The Crescent, but all is clear.
Back in the town centre, Sgt Hurst arrives ahead of the briefing to his officers. This festival they are armed with kits to test bottles of drink for alcohol in a bid to combat underage drinking.
We have time to search other drinking hotspots and find where Abbey Path drinkers and addicts may have moved to – behind the Bull and Monkie in Churchgate.
Among the debris of rubbish and cans there is a syringe.
It instantly becomes understandable why the soles of Sgt Hurst’s boots are metal re-inforced with steel toecaps. He said: “We have to buy our own now – these cost £120. This is another way the cuts have affected us.”
As the festival draws closer, Sgt Hurst prepares for the briefing. He said: “This is a showcase for Spalding and the people who work here. It’s our aim that the night goes well and everyone enjoys themselves.
“But on the back of this the world still goes on – we will still get calls and people being threatened. It is all part of the job.”