THE 21st century may see a police force able to call on the most modern of equipment and tactics, but there is one thing that has not changed since the days when Sir Robert Peel’s ‘bobbies’ first patrolled the cobbled streets of early 19th-century London.
The importance of getting out and about and meeting ordinary people on the streets of our towns and villages is something that PC Alex Warmington strongly believes in and has made the bedrock of her approach to the job of being the community beat officer for Kelso and the surrounding area.
One of 18 community ‘cops’ across the Borders policing area, she took up her new post back in August and is based at Kelso Police Station.
A native of Hartlepool, PC Warmington covers Kelso, Sprouston, Yetholm, Morebattle, Heiton, Smailholm and Stichill. She has been in the Borders for the last six years and has been in the police for the last 10 years.
Prior to her move to the Borders, she served in Cleveland and before that in Middlesborough. PC Warmington says the move over the border meant a radical change in what her job involved.
“Middlesborough is not quite a city, but it it’s still a very busy place and completely different from here,” she told TheSouthern this week during a break in pounding Kelso’s pavements.
“I deal with people on a face-to-face basis here a lot more and I absolutely love it.”
PC Warmington’s role as community beat officer includes everything from responding to calls that come in to the police to giving talks to children and women’s institutes.
“There’s a real variety in my job which I enjoy. Being a community beat officer is all about getting out and meeting people, listening to their concerns and doing something about them.”
She has now introduced her own monthly newsletter which can be emailed to residents or collected from various outlets in Kelso and the surrounding villages.
“The newsletter seems to have gone down well with folk. It’s just telling people what has been happening and what I have been doing.
“I can email it out to anyone interested or I just hand out to shops on my regular walks round,” she said.
PC Warmington says one message she has been keen to get across to local citizens in recent weeks is the need to ensure their property is always securely locked away.
“Rural crime is something we have been targeting and I have been trying to get members of the public to help themselves by making sure they lock their belongings away.
“We’ve had a few thefts of quad bikes recently, plus thefts of diesel, scrap and heating oil – mostly opportunistic thefts.
“It’s all about prevention. If we can educate people to look after their property a bit more by locking things up better, that is a big help. Put valuables away – that will be half the battle.
“People can be a bit complacement about locking away things but I think that is because this is such a nice place to live.”
Bogus workmen is another issue PC Warmington and her colleagues are on alert about. “It is coming into that time of year when bogus workmen start targetting people.
“There is a trial scheme on at the moment in Coldstream on no cold calling which I would like to see trialled over here as well. It’s aimed at bogus workmen. But a whole street has to be in agreement about doing it, as signs need to be put up at each end of a street and there are also stickers for windows – it’s a bit similar to Neighbourhood Watch schemes.
“It just gives people a bit more confidence to decline services being offered on their doorsteps and I’d like to introduce that over here.”
PC Warmington says she is also keen to try to reinstate the local community safety panel in Kelso and wants to hear from anyone prepared to volunteer to serve as a member.
“I am currently looking for volunteers for that. A community safety panel has a lot of benefits when it comes to getting small projects funded. Ideally, I’d like to hear from people with perhaps some knowledge of funding or project management.”
PC Warmington says two of the main issues which get regularly raised with her by residents of Kelso are anti-social behaviour from youths and fly-tipping.
“That and speeding through villages is something else that quite a few people are concerned about,” she told us.
PC Warmington says people in Kelso will be seeing more police officers out on foot patrol around the town at the moment. “We have been getting out and about a lot and a lot of people have been saying how good that is to see,” she said. “So far the local people I have met have been very helpful and friendly. I think that’s not just Kelso, but something you find all over the Borders.”
Every 10 weeks PC Warmington tours the Kelso area and villages in the local police community contact van.
“I spend two days covering the north and then the south of my area. I just park up somewhere visible and people can come and speak to me about anything they want.
“I think it is a popular service – when I last went to Smailholm there was actually a queue waiting. To be honest, at first I thought they were waiting for a bus! So it was good to see that people are finding that a useful service. They don’t always want to chat about policing issues though – sometimes it’s just a general chat and that’s quite nice too.”
Asked if she thought being a woman had made her job as a police officer easier or more difficult, PC Warmington says gender doesn’t come into the equation.
“I don’t think it makes a difference to being a police officer. It just depends how approachable the person is. A lot of the officers in Kelso have been here a long time so they know lots of people and lots of people know them.
“I am still a bit new, so meeting new people every day. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have officers on foot all over the place all the time. But there are more foot patrols taking place in Kelso and that’s continuing.”
PC Warmington, who is married to a police officer – she and her husband have a young daughter – says being a community beat officer gives her a bit more flexibility.
“I do have more flexibility than if I was permanently attached to the shift. I am part of the shift at Kelso and so do attend jobs that are called in, but have time as part of my job to do other stuff.
“For example, I have local scouts coming along to the police station for a visit. I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is quite a bit different from the other roles I have had in the police force.
“But I am loving it. It’s a great area to work in.”