It’s been eight months since our Public Protection Officers moved into the city centre.
We joined Michelle and Ashley, know to all as ‘Shell’ and ‘Ash’, on their regular rounds to see what a day on patrol is like and to see the real impact they are having on individual lives and on the safety of everyone visiting and working in the city centre.
The team now consists of eight officers, with a planned expansion in 2019, and the day starts with a team briefing; all the officers get together to talk about the successes and incidents from the day before and to plan the day ahead. The team is split between those working in the city centre and those out in the neighbourhoods, engaging and educating citizens and businesses, concentrating on environmental crimes, like fly tipping and trade waste.
After the meeting Shell and Ash head into the city. Ash tells me they can often do up to eight miles in a day and all along the way are greeted with smiles, nods and hellos. Whilst the PPOs do not have the same powers as the police, they do wear a uniform and there is a real sense that the vast majority of people are comforted by the site of a ‘bobby on the beat’.
As we walk the city centre streets the team frequently stop and talk to their ‘regulars’, those people who may have been in trouble with the police previously, who are homeless or drug users, making sure they are ok and checking on their news. They also talk to businesses and workers to make sure they are happy and have had no problems that day.
All the time we are walking the team are listening out for reports they need to attend to and it’s not long before they get a call that someone has spotted a needle in one of the city’s many hidden away places. Touring of these secluded parts of the city is a regular part of the job. These are hotspots where people can take advantage of quiet corners to engage in illegal and anti-social behaviour. The team find the needle and securely dispose of it and we are on our way again.
The team are also able to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN’s) for littering in the city centre and Community Protection Notices to individuals and businesses. Due to the success of the service the council has also expanded their powers to cover fly posting, graffiti and the distribution of free literature for the city centre.
The job is not just about a tackling anti-social behaviour, it’s also about building relationships and helping the community. The team work very hard to build relationships with Derby’s homeless, the walking route includes a visit to the Padley Centre to talk to some of the people there now, once a week a member of the Re-housing Engagement Support Team (REST) from Derby Homes joins the PPOs to engage directly with individuals, offering help and signposting them to support agencies.
Shell also tells us the story of a vulnerable woman who they encountered looking dishevelled and confused. Shell took the time to get to know the lady, who has no family, and visited her home and signposted her to agencies that could offer her help and support. She’s followed this up over a period of months.
Linking up with the CCTV system is a crucial part of the job and we meet up with Jason who manages the city centre cameras, linking up with the PPOs, the police and the Cathedral Quarter and St Peter’s Quarter Rangers and communicating through the radio system to alert the feet on the ground about any incidents that need action.
Shell and Ash also tell us of a time when the CCTV really came into its own when they were faced with two serious injuries within minutes. The PPOs have a high level of first aid training and were directed to a 94 year old lady with a serious head injury having fallen, moments later they received another call on their radio from the control room about a lady lying in the road. The 82 year old who had fallen and broken her leg. The team split up and separately triaged both ladies and waited with them for hours for an ambulance and then sat with them at hospital whilst waiting for relatives to arrive.
As we leave Shell and Ash to carry on their shift, it’s clear what a valuable role they play. They are a visible presence but so much of what they do will go and unseen and unrecognised, going above and beyond every day working hard for the city. Derby, like any other city, will never be totally free from antisocial behaviour , but with the help of committed public servants like Shell and Ash we will continue to do all we can to help make it an even safer place to live, work and visit.