Author Archives: CambsCops

The ‘amazing’ variety of being a Special

Cropped landscape

Before university I studied psychology at A-level where I discovered an interest in forensics and the criminal justice system. Whilst studying Psychology and Business at Aston University I decided to become more involved with the police force and I applied to become a Special constable in my home area, Cambridgeshire.

Graduating into the police in October 2017 was one of the proudest days of my life. Although university offers valuable opportunities which you cannot get anywhere else, being a Special has made me see that I want to be a police officer after university.

A typical shift is 10 hours long and you are paired with a regular officer. You respond to 999 jobs, ranging from burglaries to domestics to missing people. 

The variety of the role as a Special is amazing and I am never sure what to expect at the start of each shift. This together with the sense of contributing to society is what makes being in the police so special.

My advice is to research the role properly before you join. Being a Special can be demanding and requires commitment, but the rewards and the sense of satisfaction in a job well done make it worthwhile.

My intention is to complete my Bachelors degree at university and then join as a regular, with the hope of moving into forensics or crime analysis in the coming years.

More on joining the Special Constabulary

Open water safety

Hello again.

In this month’s blog, I wish to discuss the dangers of swimming in open water. This is one of the hottest Julys on record and I know the water looks tempting and refreshing, but with reports of youths swimming in the local rivers and lochs I feel I need to address the issue.

People often get into trouble in open water due to a lack of safety knowledge. The basic principles of open water safety, combined with knowledge and understanding of the hazards, can increase enjoyment of open water and significantly reduce the risks involved.

Do’s, Don’ts and the Dangers of Open Water

Don’t:

  • Swim at sites without an on-duty lifeguard
  • Jump into the water until you have acclimatised to the water temperature
  • Jump into the water from heights or ‘tombstone’
  • Swim into deep water which will be colder

Do:

  • Swim at lifeguarded sites
  • Swim parallel with the shore so you can quickly get to safety
  • Be aware of underwater hazards
  • Swim with friends or family so that you can help each other if you need to
  • Look for signs and advice about the specific dangers at the place where you are swimming
  • Think about what you will do if something goes wrong
  • Contact a reputable outdoor activity centre if you want to take part in more extreme activities

Dangers of open water include:

  • The height of the fall or jump if tombstoning
  • The depth of the water can change and is unpredictable
  • Submerged objects may not be visible such as shopping trolleys or bicycles
  • Obstacles or other people in the water
  • Lack of safety equipment and increased difficulty for rescue
  • The shock of cold water can make swimming difficult and increase the difficulty in getting out
  • Strong currents
  • Uneven banks and river beds
  • Water quality – toxic algal blooms and pollution can make you ill

If someone is in difficulty in the water:

  • Shout reassurance to them and shout for help and ensure the emergency services are on their way (call 999 inland or 112 if at the Coast)
  • Without endangering yourself see if you can reach them, for example extending your reach with a stick
  • Alternatively throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy or anything else that will float
  • Keep your eye on them all the times

                                                      TAKE SAFETY ADVICE!

Be safe in the sun this holiday season,

Dawn

PCSO 7230 HODGSON

JULY 2018

The most violating crime and how it feels

Burglary Door greyed

Burglary is one of the most violating types of crime anyone can experience.

I’ve been a police officer – both in uniform and CID roles – for more than 15 years. What I am about to tell you is taken from not one case, but many incidents down the years.

First of all there is the shock.

It’s more common for someone to get burgled when they’re not at home so often we’re at the scene before the victim. The owner will arrive and step gingerly through their own front door – scared of what they are going to see, frightened and apprehensive about what has been stolen.

Many times they will immediately notice that something precious has gone. Sometimes they’ll be surprised – “they didn’t take the TV? And the laptop is still there?”

They’ll scan the address. A victim may look at it and feel like their home has been ransacked. Furniture might be overturned.

Broken glass is usually found where the point of entry has been identified. A window or a glazed door broken, perhaps with a tool from the garden.

You can see the victim, who has a shocked expression, suddenly piecing together every point of weakness in their home, all the self-blame kicking in. The hedges are too high. If only we had a security light. I wish we’d had a camera.

None of this is fair of course. You try to reassure them. It’s not their fault.

Picking through the house delicately you try to ascertain as much as possible, while leaving it undisturbed for a forensic evaluation. “Can I sit down?” the victim might say – in their own home. For that moment – and probably for an extended period afterwards, it doesn’t feel the same. Not like their own home at all.

The children’s toys have been moved. Perhaps a five pound note that came in a birthday card has been taken. It is the small things like that that are really grievous. “They even took the children’s money”.

Venturing upstairs the victim finds the offender has emptied out the wardrobe, the draws, piles of belongings are topsy-turvy on the bed. The jewellery is gone.

Often one partner has come home and the other partner is still away somewhere at work. They exchange nervous and distressing phone calls. Sometimes you can tell the victim wants to cry, but they don’t want to cry in front of the police. Sometimes the victim is simply too shocked and you have to walk them through it one step at a time. “How will I explain it to the kids?” is a rhetorical question often thrown out into the room.

The house-to-house enquiries are done. The crime report has been completed. Forensics have been and gone. “Are you going to be ok?” – the police officer is friendly and genuinely concerned. “We’ll get area patrols to come by your house during the night.”

“Yes I’m fine” [the victim is not fine] but thinks, “I wonder if they took my spare key? Will they come back?”Then the address is left alone – all the police and forensic people leave – and the victim stays at home. It is very unusual that the victim will get any sleep that night. Maybe not for a few nights.  

For weeks and months afterwards that victim will be on edge, worried about being at home alone. Worried about leaving the house empty when they go to work. They start to contemplate exaggerated security measures like a massive number of cameras, expensive alarms, and guard dogs – perhaps now feeling that they would like to take every step to give them peace of mind. Some people contemplate putting the house on the market because they’ll never look at it in the same way.

Perhaps the offender stole the victim’s wallet or purse – they got enough bank details to spend some money on cards. The upheaval then begins of calling credit card providers, the bank need to send out new debit cards, identifying legitimate purchases.

Then there is the thought – the angry thought – of that person out there who did this – “maybe they still have my dad’s watch on them right now” – “I wish I could get my hands on them”. Of course this isn’t the victim’s fault. Although, in the same measure, there are steps we can take to help that victim to not fall victim again.

Before this happens we can really struggle to get people to pay attention to this. After a burglary it’s all the victim can think about. We don’t want people to ignore it, but we don’t want people to be obsessed with it either.

We talk about property marking, we talk about additional door security. We talk about affordable window alarms. We discuss whether lowering the hedge row would help to put a would-be offender off. We talk about CCTV and how much more affordable camera technology has become. We discuss having lights on timers, and not leaving the house in darkness. A security light at the back wouldn’t cost a great deal. Sadly for so many people who are paying attention to this advice – we are locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Like every crime, if you are better protected than the houses surrounding you – you are not likely to be the victim. Unless the pay-off promises to be huge, why would the offender work in a clearly illuminated environment, overlooked, negotiating window alarms and CCTV?

This is the real cost of burglary – the traumatic feelings, coping with the aftermath, the sense of insecurity, the anger of having a stranger in your home. If I could reach out to one person through this to persuade them to take the appropriate steps that prevent them from becoming a victim of this type of crime, it has been worth the time it took to write.

You can find out more by visiting or website burglary pages

Sergeant Phil Priestley

Now see burglary from an offender’s viewpoint

 

Inside the mind of a burglar

Op Aware cropped.png

I am a burglar, it’s what I do. Houses, sheds, garages. I’m not bothered what I break into, as long as there’s something to steal and I don’t get caught. I’ve been caught before, a few times and I’ve been to prison. I didn’t like jail and I don’t want to go back there, but I’m a burglar, it’s what I do.

What am I looking for you may ask? Easy targets, I don’t want to spend ages trying to get in to a house and not managing it, and I don’t want to get caught, so if there’s someone at home I’ll go to the house where there’s nobody. That house over there looks like an easy target, there’s a nice high hedge which I can hide behind and nobody can see me from the road and wonder what I’m up to. There’s no car on the drive and the curtains are open. The lights are all off and it’s nine o’clock at night, they must all be out, but for how long? I might come back tomorrow and see if it’s the same, they’re probably on holiday.

I really don’t want to bump into anyone in the house, I don’t want anyone calling the police on me. Some people are getting too clever nowadays and trying to fool us by making their house look like they’re in when they’re not. Putting things like timers on their lights and these devices that flash and make it look like there’s a telly on in the house. Well they put me off. If I’m not sure I can’t take the risk. I’ll go somewhere else.

The places I really avoid are those that have alarms and CCTV. If someone has gone to the trouble of putting those in they really have protected their house and I reckon they will also have made sure that the locks on the doors and windows are strong. Even worse if they’ve got locked gates so I can’t get around the back of the house.

I really hate those busybody Neighbourhood Watch types. Are they trying to gang up on me or something? I hate it when people are looking out of their windows and watching what I’m up to, signs and stickers advertising Neighbourhood Watch really put me off. Dogs don’t bother me though. I’m ok with dogs and anyone who thinks that just because they’ve got a big dog they don’t even need to lock their doors has got another thing coming.

Sometimes I’ll just try my luck and walk up to doors and try them. If they aren’t locked, bonus, I’ll just walk in and help myself. If there’s someone there I’ll make up a rubbish excuse, something like “Sorry, I thought this was my mate John’s house” and walk away.

Usually though I have to break in, I do that by prising the window or door with the short crow bar that I carry down my trousers. It’s difficult to prise open a door or a window with a load of dead locks on it. Easy though if they’ve left the key in the door – just break the glass and turn the key.

I’ll nick anything but I really want stuff that I can get rid of easily; jewellery and cash mainly, and I know where to find them. They’re in the master bedroom. People put them there because they think they are safe. They think “If we get broken into, they won’t be able to steal our jewellery because they’ll wake us up if they try to get into our bedroom”. Well I’m not going to break in while you’re at home am I?

Sometimes, if I can’t get into the house I’ll have a look in the shed, it’s amazing what people will leave in there. I stole a bike the other day and got £300 for it. I reckon it was really worth two grand but some people want big discounts if the stuff’s stolen. But all the shed had on it was a cheap padlock. I can’t believe it sometimes. People will spend two grand on a bike, then stick it in a shed with a £5 padlock. Easy meat for the pair of bolt croppers I’ve got in my coat.

My life is getting harder though. The police keep on telling people to make sure they have good locks on their doors and join Neighbourhood Watch. Whatever next, anyone would think that they didn’t want to get their houses burgled.

This article is not the words of one burglar but of many. It is written from genuine conversations with experienced detectives that have interviewed many burglars and these are the things they have told them.

Between us we can beat the burglars. For more information please visit our website

Andy Street

Police Sergeant

 

“You can carry a knife and be lucky and never have to use it but how do you know you won’t. You don’t.”

As a child my son Andrew had a fascination with taking things apart and putting them back together. He once filled a lawnmower with petrol and accidentally set it alight. He did a lot of things like that I knew one day might land him in trouble but what happened to him on 8th January was not one of my worries.

Andrew Hasler 7

Andrew celebrating his birthday

 

Andrew 12

Heights were never a problem for Andrew

 

 

I last saw Andrew alive on Christmas Eve 2016 when he was telling me how he had fallen off a ladder. What he didn’t tell me before was that he was two storeys high and had been hanging by his finger tips and it was only thanks to someone seeing him on CCTV that he was rescued! This was typical of Andrew, he had no fear. He was a helpful, kind natured, generous young man.

 

 

 

 

It was Sunday lunchtime when I was sitting in the local coffee shop ordering some lunch when I received a message out of the blue from one of Andrew’s friends asking me to get in touch. I knew instantly that something wasn’t right and then couldn’t get hold of the friend or Andrew.

I remember sitting there eating my lunch but not really wanting it at all and not knowing what to do.

I eventually spoke to Andrew’s neighbour who told me there were police and ambulance outside his home. With that I called the local police station and hospital but couldn’t get any information.

I went home and waited and watched every single car as it passed the window and then I saw the police car arrive. I had the front door open ready and I remember saying ‘I’m not going to like what you tell me’.

They told me Andrew was dead.

Andrew Hasler 1

I didn’t believe it, even though I knew deep down, long before they’d arrived that it was true.

I went through the motions calling his father, his brother, my parents. I just remember saying ‘he’s dead’. I didn’t know what had happened.

When the family liaison officer arrived one of the first things I remember is her telling me that Andrew was an innocent victim. I was very shocked that in that small space of time they knew there were defence wounds.

From that point I was running on autopilot. Things needed to be done. I had a funeral to arrange. The money I had hoped to spend on his wedding one day would now be spent on his funeral.

To be told later that your son stepped in to save someone else – one minute you are proud and the next you are asking yourself why he did that? He could still be here. At the same time you know that there was never going to be a happy ending for someone and you wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Andrew was stabbed 17 times but it was only one that killed him and the woman he was protecting was lucky that one of her 15 stab wounds missed her heart by just centimetres.

It’s still not real. I still expect him to knock on the door. I go and visit Andrew’s grave but I don’t know what to say to him so I play music. It’s not something I ever thought I would have to do.

I remember being in the supermarket and suddenly it hit me that I was in the shop where the knives were bought. I remember trying to avoid the knife section but also wondering what kind of knife it was. Then at the checkout I wanted to ask why he was sold them. Who would expect a 40-year-old to be buying three knives with that intention?

I have to do something positive for Andrew. He fought to save someone’s life and lost his. If just one person hands in a knife or chooses not to carry one then that could save someone’s life.

Think about the consequences.  Do you want to face 25 years – possibly the best years of your life – in prison?

Think about the parents, brothers, sisters, family, friends, the whole community. No parent should ever have to bury their child. I know it happens through illness but something that’s as needless as this, it shouldn’t happen.

What would your parents and family say? They’ll lose you and have to live with the consequences that you killed someone.

You can carry a knife and be lucky and never have to use it but how do you know you won’t. You don’t.

Helen Fazier

“Knife crime takes more than one life, it takes us all.”

“James was a good baby, a happy child. At school he was brilliant at gymnastics and had potential to go far but decided that it wasn’t the right thing for him and we supported that. It didn’t stop him showing off his muscles at every opportunity though. He was always in the garden doing handstands and would regularly go to the gym.

James (standing) and brother Luke

James (standing) and his brother Luke

 

James doing handstand

James showing off his talents in the garden

“When he was 17, James found his first love and moved all the way to the Lake District to be with her. They had a son, Leon, who is now eight. The relationship with his girlfriend wasn’t meant to be and about four years ago James moved back home but any opportunity he got, he would be back visiting Leon. He loved being a dad, it’s what he lived for.

 

James and Leon

James and son Leon

 

“James took up painting and decorating but also had a passion for cooking and had started getting into catering. He would always be helping me out in the kitchen, and made a brilliant gravy for the Sunday roast.

“Friday, 30th June last year started out as just a normal day. James spoke to his son Leon in the morning and went off to work. Each Friday pretty much followed the same routine for James. He’d come home, have a shower and some dinner and then go out to party – like any young person would. This day was no different. He went out as usual but popped back about 9pm to get a jumper and I remember telling him not to be noisy when he got home as I was looking after my other grandson.

“It was about 10:45pm when one of his friends started knocking at the door. I was shaking my head thinking that he was mucking about but he insisted I open the door and speak to him. When I did, he told me that James was in Stretton Avenue, that police and ambulance were there and he was being resuscitated. I screamed up the stairs to my partner who rushed down there but they wouldn’t let anyone through, he could see it was not looking good.

“When I got to the hospital we were told that the doctors had been working on him for over an hour but he had died. I was in shock. I’d only seen James two hours previously. That night we all just cried all night.

 

James, Linda and Luke

James, his mum Linda and brother Luke

 

“The police came round in the morning but everything was just a haze. We’d been told that James had been stabbed in the heart. This just doesn’t happen, not to normal people like us.

“Then we had to face the trial and re-live how he died in great detail. At least we have some sort of justice and James can rest in peace.

“Leon misses his dad so much, we all miss him, it’s an unbearable pain. There’s not a day, probably even a minute that goes by that I don’t think about him. Sometimes I go to the spot where he fell and lay flowers, we also have a plaque in the garden because he loved being outside.

 

James memorial

A memorial left by James’ grandparents

 

“If Ali hadn’t of been carrying a knife then chances are there would’ve been a scuffle of some sort but no one would’ve died and James would be here today.

“The family of Ali might not be able to get their heads around their son being a murderer but at least he’s alive and they can visit him. All we get to see is a cemetery.

“Knife crime takes more than one life, it takes us all. If you chose to carry a knife there will be no winners, just losers.”

Linda Hall

Working together to tackle hare coursing

Throughout the autumn and winter one of the local issues that police have received the most calls about is hare coursing. For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about; hare coursing is where dogs are used to chase hares for sport and is illegal under the Hunting Act of 2004 and the Game Act of 1831. Aside from the obvious cruelty issues there are many other factors which make this a problem with which we need to get to grips.

It is often the case that the hare coursers will be in gangs coming from various parts of the country, they are always very determined to carry out their pursuit and will stop at nothing do so. They will often drive across fields of newly set crops, often causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and threatening anyone that challenges them. It is fair to say that these gangs have caused a great deal of fear and intimidation in the rural community.

I know that some people don’t have a lot of sympathy for the farmers but the fact is that by damaging their crops these offenders are damaging their livelihoods. I have known of cases where the coursers have driven straight through the farmyard to get onto a field and when asked not to do so have responded with threats of violence, some have even threatened to burn down the farmer’s home.

When living in an isolated area it’s no wonder that some of the rural community feel intimidated by this.

Cambridgeshire Police have set up a Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) to help to deal with this and other rural crime related problems but they are only a small team and have to cover the entire county. Very often when the calls come in it is the local officers that have to attend and we aren’t always best equipped to deal with the problem.

The coursers are always in 4x4s and it’s difficult to catch them on fields and muddy droves when driving a front wheel drive patrol car. This is why we have to work together and we need you the public to be vigilant. If you this see this taking place please call the police. Note down registration numbers and descriptions of vehicles.

Sharing the intelligence is something that can have a great deal of advantages. It gives us an early warning system of what and who to look out for. There have been recent examples when we have shared these details with other counties and on occasions they have stopped some of the vehicles and found that they are being driven illegally and even by a person wanted for burglary.

Over the past couple of weeks, in my area we have had some successes in catching and deterring the hare coursers. On 7th January a vehicle was seized by police in Somersham after having its tyres punctured by a stinger and the occupant was caught. On 14th January four people were arrested for coursing in Warboys and their vehicle was seized.

Seized coursers Vehicle 1_.jpg

But rather than just reacting when they are here we want to try to stop them coming at all. The RCAT are pursuing civil court injunctions in order to stop known offenders from coming here and giving us greater powers to deal with them when they do.
Very often we concentrate most of our resources in the towns but I’d like to reassure the rural community that we will do our best to keep you safe as well.

Sergeant Andy Street
St. Ives and Ramsey Neighbourhood Policing Team