City and Holbeck PCSO Kirsty Johnson writes the first part of her guest post on her life as a police community support officer, dealing with anti-social behaviour, youths and a whole host of other community issues. You’d be surprised what she deals with! Read on…
Generally, the first question we get asked when someone speaks to a PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) for the first time is “So you don’t get paid for this then?” But, no, that’s not us…it is the Special Constables who work voluntarily and have the same powers as a police officer.
To explain more of what our job involves I would have to ask “Which hat would you like me to wear today?” Because the only sure thing I can tell you about being a PCSO is that no two days are the same; after being in the job nearly five years I can safely say that when you think you have seen everything, along comes another entirely different situation to deal with!
The main priority in our role is to be out in the community and as visible as possible…not difficult with those bright yellow jackets! Although to some people this may sound a bit dull walking around in the same area every day, by knowing what is ‘normal’ is the only way to be able to tell when something is not quite right.
From starting this job, it is unbelievable how many things in your surroundings you do not notice until you really start to concentrate on noticing. As part of this we tend to do a lot of reporting to the council about fly tipping, street lights not working and other environmental issues – many people notice these things but don’t tend to report them.
One of the regular parts of our job which most people will have seen us doing is ‘scene guarding’ which involves us protecting a crime scene until all of the forensic work has been done and the necessary investigation is complete.
Naturally, many of the neighbours/locals want to know what has happened so it’s always a challenge to find something to tell them….without giving any details at all! I’m sure most PCSO’s would tell you the same – scene guards never come along when it’s fine and clement weather – it always seems to be either freezing, rainy or a heatwave. Thankfully, scene guards are the time when you realise just how kind the locals really are as you often get hot drinks and even sandwiches brought out for you.
Anti-social behaviour a priority
As being in the community is a large part of our role, anti-social behaviour (ASB) is one of our main priorities.
It may be youths in the street causing a disturbance or it may be nuisance neighbours allowing all & sundry to use their house as a meeting point. More often than not, ASB is the way that you first get to meet the local youths so if you can deal with the situation whilst being reasonable, you will often get them on your side straight away and have a good chance of them listening to you in future.
Neighbour disputes are another common issue – thankfully when you have a discussion with both parties, there has often been a silly misunderstanding which has just escalated out of control and is rectified by just being the catalyst for a discussion. Now and again though the disputes continue, one or both parties refuse to discuss the issues, and it is a case of just telling them to ignore each other.
One of my favourite parts of the job is visiting the primary schools in my area. Most of the high schools now have their own PC based there so we can concentrate on helping out with the little ones which is always fun!
I have three primary schools within my area and they are all very welcoming and helpful so it’s a pleasure to visit. I usually get asked to go speak to the children about ‘people who help us’ as well as doing assemblies when either myself or the school think there are issues that need to be covered.
PCSO’s generally also work with Leeds City Council doing Pedestrian Training (i.e. safe road use) and I have also been on a very long bike ride as part of their cycle training – right from Beeston, to the city centre, along the canal to Thwaite Mills and back to school….I definitely needed a long soak that night but it was great to get to know some of the children on a one-to-one basis. Of course, the school sometimes like us to speak to pupils individually if there have been serious ‘naughty’ issues – with the parents’ approval of course.
I do visit homes quite often too if there are problems with the children and the parents would like us to have a word with them – it’s really satisfying when you check up a few weeks later and the behaviour has improved.
The main time we get to work with the older children is at the local youth clubs – it’s great to be able to speak to them in more relaxed surroundings so that they can see you are human too!
Most of the lads will still be a bit ‘gruff’ no matter how many cups of tea you make them but, as I have found, as they get a bit older they drop the tough act and you can have a good laugh with them.
Cardinal Youth Club ‘s celebrations
My favourite event last year was the Cardinal Youth Club 10th birthday celebrations. There were stalls, attractions, shows and lots more with all of the kids from the youth club involved.
My colleagues and I were asked to play inflatable table football against the youth club kids which involved being strapped inside the giant table – I thought it would be against the little ones so was expecting an easy game but it turned out to be all of the oldest & tallest lads…they only beat us by a little bit though and it was great fun.
The local fetes and fairs are always a great time to meet people but I seem to be the ‘volunteer’ for going in the stocks every time now so, no matter what the weather, it always turns out wet for me!
Part two of this post can be found on South Leeds Life tomorrow.
Kirsty Johnson is PCSO 0244
Holbeck Neighbourhood Policing Team: 0113 2414629
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