Crime is at an all-time low on Northampton’s Brackmills Industrial Estate. Here, we talk to the estate’s Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Paul Hurst who walks up to 20 miles every day to combat crime, support businesses, promote cycle safety and help Brackmills retain its status as the premier logistics and business estate in the UK …
Paul Hurst, Brackmill’s Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), has worked on the estate for more than two years. With lower crime rates than other industrial estates and an active daily presence, Paul offers some insight into what it’s like on a typical day working as Brackmill’s PSCO.
How do you start your day?
The first thing I do when I start my duty is check the systems and find out if there has been any crime or incidents overnight. This will determine what I need to do for that day. This could involve any number of different activities. If there has been a burglary, for example, I would have to check the CCTV and ANPR cameras, make enquiries, question the businesses in the area to see if they have any information, and also visit the victims to offer support and crime prevention tips.
What is the biggest task of your day?
Walking! One of the main things I need to do is be visible. I used to travel across the estate on my bike, but I was going too fast and I wasn’t connecting with people well enough. So now I walk. I walk around 40,000 steps per day, which equates to about 20 miles. I ensure I cover an equal spread of every area across the site, and I can often cover every area at least twice during my day. As this is a sponsored role, it means I can dedicate all my time purely to Brackmills, unlike other PCSO’s who may have to cover larger areas. This means I can do far more for the estate.
What might you encounter as you walk around?
Engaging with the people across the estate is really important. But I don’t always think they know they can approach me. I’m here to help them all, even if it’s related to an issue at home. It doesn’t have to just be things that have happened on the estate.
Alongside engaging with employees, I also report things to partner agencies, such as pot holes, graffiti, fly tipping and overflowing bins. I made 39 reports to the council last year. I’m also here to offer support and guidance to homeless people around the estate. It’s about looking after everybody’s needs, keeping people safe and ensuring the estate maintains a high standard.
Is there a lot of crime across the estate?
I’m happy to say, no. In fact in 2021 there were just 82 crimes reported across the estate, which is much lower than other estates. We made just 26 arrests last year. If you consider that there are 20,000 people on the estate, that’s a very small number.
It isn’t just the presence of a PCSO that’s made the difference, though. Before I started, the BID had invested heavily in security, such as CCTV and ANPR cameras. Crime is low because of the work done all across the estate.
How much do you work with individual businesses?
I’m here help every business across Brackmills. If any business or person has a problem, I would like them to discuss it with me.
One business did just that when they realised that employees were stealing from them. To help tackle this issue, we used a problem solving approach known as OSARA. This helped us to identify how the offences were taking place. From this we could implement the right strategy to resolve it. It involved a range of tasks, such as increasing my visibility, searching staff as they entered and exited particular areas, tamper tags were put on fire exits, new infrastructure was put in place and the CCTV was upgraded. Since the start of my involvement, there have been no further crimes committed, which is really good news.
There are a lot of cyclists across the estate, how do you help them?
There are lots of cycle paths across Brackmills, and it’s great to see how well they’re utilised. But for those who use the roads, there are occasionally road traffic collisions. I am trained to administer first aid, and I am here to help with these incidents.
Cycle safety is very important, and in the dark nights lights are a legal requirement. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t have lights. I’m a big believer in education over enforcement, though. I can issue tickets to people who are cycling with no lights, but instead I managed to get some bike lights that I was able to give to people. Their safety is the most important thing. On top of that, we also do cycle marking sessions and offer crime prevention tips.
What crime prevention tips do you have?
Ultimately, the best thing we can all do is work together. For starters, if you see a crime or have been a victim of one, you must report it. If we don’t know it’s happened, we can’t help, and we don’t then have a full awareness of what needs tackling across the estate.
Often people will leave it a couple of days before reporting a crime. While it’s great that the person has come forward to tell us, by reporting it when it happens, or when you first know about it, we are in a much stronger position to deal with it. Even if you’re not sure how serious it is or whether it’s worth mentioning, I’d much rather people came to speak to me than ignore it. The more we can work together, the less crime there will be.
What has been your best moment over the past two years?
As part of my role, I regularly visit the Totstop Nursery, which looks after a lot of the employees’ children across the estate. Last Christmas we held an activity about Santa’s lost licence. I told the children that I’d found a lost licence while I was on my patrol. As it was like nothing I’d ever seen before, I took it to the nursery to get their thoughts. I asked them if they’d witnessed anything suspicious nearby that could identify where the owner of the licence had come from and how he’d lost it.
They loved playing detective. They excitedly told me that the owner of the licence was Santa and he lived in the North Pole. The children helped me to seal an envelope to get the licence back to Santa in time for Christmas Eve. Then, that same afternoon, as if by magic, the nursery received a reply which thanked them for their help and included some small treats too. It was a great success in helping me talk to the children and promote the idea of working together. What really surprised me was how it went viral on social media and even got picked up by the press. We were praised for this work across the country. I have to say, this was probably one of my most enjoyable moments at work.
How do people get in touch with you?
There are loads of ways to get in touch with me. The most direct is to stop me and talk to me as I walk across the estate. But you can also:
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Or contact Paul on social media – @nptonpolice on Twitter or @Northampton Neighbourhood Policing Team on Facebook.