Posted on Monday 23 January 2023
It’s 8pm and PC Mike Welch is sitting at the dining room table in the home of a Polish man and his wife.
His radio bleeps away as a busy evening of calls come into the control room but right now, he must navigate the difficult task trying to take a statement from the man, who has limited English, and is in shock.
Earlier in the evening, the man had come to the town’s police station in a panic.
He explained his elderly neighbour, who had been unwell for several years, had not been seen since that morning. When no lights went on in the house after dark, he knew he needed to get help.
PC Welch and PC Bram Booth carried out a welfare check and quickly discovered the man was unresponsive, slumped behind his back door.
Calling an ambulance, they then smashed a window to gain entry. Sadly, their efforts were in vain as the man was already deceased and had been for a few hours.
PC Welch and Booth stayed with the man’s body until the ambulance arrived and checked the house for any evidence that could be needed for the coroner - all sudden deaths require an inquest.
This is not the first sudden death the neighbourhood officers have been called to, and it won’t be the last, but each person is treated with the same respect and compassion.
After taking the neighbour’s statement and trying to comfort him, PC Welsh thanks the couple for the welcome cup of tea and leaves the address to make sure all evidence has been gathered. It is now 11pm, two hours after their finish time.
This was just one of many incidents the Newton Aycliffe neighbourhood officers carried out in that single shift.
Twelve hours earlier, Inspector Sarah Honeyman and Sergeant Andy Boyd had started the day on the early shift, checking over ongoing incidents, issues and priorities from the previous day which are then tasked out to the PCs and PCSOs.
PC Booth investigated a burglary at a local Chinese takeaway, reviewing CCTV, scouring the area and liaising with crime scene investigator Kieran O’Donnell, who was already on scene collecting vital evidence.
PC Holly McCabe and PCSO Sarah Nicols visited businesses in the town to invite them to the next Shop Watch meeting, which was already having an impact on reducing thefts and encouraging reporting of incidents.
PC Welch held a meeting with community leaders to talk all things anti-social behaviour and specific projects that have been working to reduce the number of incidents.
But perhaps Sergeant Boyd had the best job of the day visiting the community’s most vocal residents – schoolchildren at St Mary’s RC Primary School.
Helping Mrs Wills on the topic of the police and why they keep people safe, Sgt Boyd explained all about his role and 27-year career with Durham Constabulary as well as answering some tough questions about skills are needed to be a police constable and where all his hair went!
He then returned to the office and got to work identifying candidates to take part in the team’s Ahead of the Arrest – a pilot scheme working with the charity Humankind to identify vulnerable people suffering with drug or alcohol misuse and offer support before their problems escalate.
Sgt Boyd said: “We see everything in Neighbourhood Policing and that is why I love this role because it allows us to build positive relationships to make a real difference in the community.
“Over the last few days we have been arresting suspects for burglary, working with partners to problem solve around vulnerability and anti-social behaviour, and engaging with school pupils to keep them safe. It’s such a wide ranging and interesting role.
“I’m really proud of my team and know each and every one of them works hard every day to deal with issues in our community.
“They do this role because they care about our community, they hurt when things are going wrong and take a great deal of pride when we get positive results."