It’s not very often you get offered the chance to spend the day with your local Police officers, so when the chance came along, I grabbed it with both hands.
The aim of the day was to collect photographs to tell their own story, and try to show how the work that local Police officers do, as part of their daily routine, has a direct impact on the local Handsworth community, addressing the areas of concern to many residents, and of course, keeping updated on developments on a local level by simply listening and talking to people on the streets.
Armed with my trusty camera, and a decent pair of walking shoes, I met up with PC Martin Hancox at Perry Barr police station early in the morning, and following a security briefing and quick tour of the station, we headed off towards the Rookery Road area of Handsworth in one of the squad cars.
Martin had certain pre-arranged visits scheduled into his day, so the route we walked was fitted around those, giving plenty of chances for us to duck down the alleyways and side streets.
The first thing we encountered was something that has been reported regularly by residents, and has been highlighted as one of the priorities for the area: fly tipping and litter. This mess was dumped at the back of the Handsworth Medical Practice at the far end of the dead-end.
Martin seized the chance to take direct action about this disgraceful behaviour, pulled out his phone, and called the street cleaning department of Birmingham City Council. Within minutes, Robin, one of the street cleaning team arrived, and called for a clean up truck to come and clear up the mess. He stayed there waiting for the truck to arrive, and we moved on.
Next was one of the pre-arranged visits to a resident, who had reported a concern.
Unfortunately there was no answer at his door, so Martin took the opportunity to walk around the flats, to chat to some of the local residents, check on the known hide-aways for signs of alcohol and substance abuse, and take advantage of overlooking a busy road junction for a few minutes, surveying from a high position.
The next visit was to St. James Primary School for a quick chat with the Headmaster. The Police have provided the children there with some pushbikes on loan, so they can learn road safety and take their cycling proficiency tests. The children were all in classes, and the report from the Headmaster was that all the children had enjoyed the activity, had all passed the test, and were very grateful for the opportunity.
Taking the route via the side streets again, dealing with cars blocking the pavement, abandoned vehicles and chatting to residents, we dropped into one local small shop to buy some water- it was getting warm, and we were both feeling thirsty.
This route led us back onto Rookery Road, and we were joined by VJ, another Police Constable.
By now, it was lunchtime, and people had come out to grab a bite to eat. Some of these people had decided to park on the pavements, blocking all ways round them for pedestrians, especially mums with pushchairs and the disabled in wheelchairs… a bad mistake. One chap had to leave his barber’s chair to move his car and avoid getting a ticket. This is one of the reported concerns of local residents, and it was good to see direct action being taken to address this. Martin said that the traffic wardens would be arriving any minute now to prevent even more of this happening, so we moved on.
Stopping one motorist for not wearing his seat belt on the way, we found Tyrone coming towards us- he’s a PCSO, and must be 8ft tall !
By that time, it was 2.30, and I had to go collect my son from school, so I said farewell to Martin and VJ.
I wish I had more time to spend with the Police and learn more about what they do.
I’d like to say a sincere thank you to them all for allowing me to do this, and for sharing some of their time with me.