On patrol in Blackburn town centre

“Neighbourhood policing is all about long-term problem solving, visibility, and engagement with the community,” said PC 2520 Scott Leatherbarrow, Community Beat Manager for Blackburn town centre.

PC Leatherbarrow, who joined the Blackburn town centre team recently, kindly took the Blackburn BID team out on patrol to give us an insight into his daily duties.

At Blackburn Police Station, there are boards on the wall detailing ongoing issues, patterns of crime, repeat offenders, and warrants for arrest.

“Typically, when I come on duty, I check the overnight logs and those from the day before,” he said. “After a briefing with the sergeant, we go out on our rounds.

“In the town centre we’re trying to engage with businesses and members of the public – but we also come across a fair amount of crime.

“We always have the town link radio on. It’s a quick link between us and the businesses. Depending on the nature of what we’re dealing with, if we arrest and process someone for a crime, it can take up four or five hours of our time to deal with the incident.”

Speaking about the town centre area, he explained that the boundaries cover a large area – from Freckleton Street, Townsmoor Retail Park, up to Asda, and down to Vue Cinema, Pizza Hut and, of course, the town centre.

PC Leatherbarrow explained that typically there are three teams and three shift patterns – mornings, days and evenings. The day shift overlaps with the other two teams.

He said: “The benefit of having two teams on when we cross over is we’ll have someone out on foot while someone else is in the van. This way we have foot patrols to ensure visibility for businesses and visitors, but also the van for quick responses, if it’s needed.

“The van is ideal because you can attend an incident quicker and take the person into custody. We tend to use the van to visit hotspot areas and speak to known offenders.

“On foot, it’s a large area but you get to speak to more businesses and members of the public.”

Day-to-day challenges include rough sleepers, beggars, shoplifting and people who are drunk and disorderly.

Recently the team carried out plain clothes operations to target burglaries and carried out drugs raids. This type of operation relies on intelligence and evidence. Although this approach means the policing team isn’t visible, it does help to tackle crime affecting businesses and visitors.

PC Leatherbarrow has previously worked on immediate response and was seconded to the town centre for two months. He jumped at the chance to patrol the town centre full time.

He said: “It’s a busy town with plenty going on. It’s an area you can really get your teeth into.

“It can be challenging. Not everyone wants to talk to the police, and it can be difficult when there’s an incident and people are stood there filming you. It’s all about knowing your powers and policies.”

PC Leatherbarrow said that as well as being out and about and dealing with crimes, the team also has a workload to manage.

The town centre police officers are supported by police community support officers (PCSOs).

Raised planters and alley gates, brought in by Blackburn BID and partners, have helped to disperse rough sleepers from trouble spots.

He said: “The partnership work is brilliant and the outreach workers are making a real difference. I don’t think that any of us alone could look after the town centre. We all see different sides of Blackburn and the issues it faces.”

©2021 Blackburn BID

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