On the streets with Redbridge Police’s proactive squad
- Credit: Archant
Tears rolled down the woman’s cheeks as she sat hunched on newspapers at the summit of the staircase in Ley Street multi-storey car park.
She muttered to the police officers: “Please just leave me alone.”
“Ok if you say so, we’ll be back later to check on you again,” responded Pc Jimmy Atkins.
The Recorder spent a day with Redbridge Police’s Proactive Squad, and found the team engage with a wide range of people.
Homeless drug addicts are not necessarily who you would expect burglary officers to be occupying their time with, but Pc Atkins and his partner Pc Stewart Andrew stop by Ley Street car park, in Ilford, most mornings.
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“We know most of them on first name terms,” Pc Atkins explains.
“That was Sam, she’s upset because she can’t see her child.
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“We just go up and talk to them. One guy was due to go to rehab and then he got nicked.
“I would rather he go to rehab – think a year there would be better for him than prison – but there’s only so much two Pcs can do.”
After Ley Street we drive to Sainsbury’s supermarket in Roding Street, Ilford, and Pc Atkins and Pc Andrew climb down into some abandoned buildings behind the car park.
They have a friendly chat with a man who is sleeping rough there, before returning to the car.
Would you ever arrest these people for drugs offences, I ask the officers.
Pc Atkins replies: “If they are using, the chances are if they have any drugs they will have taken them already.
“We do not really stop and search them, we just talk to them, make sure they are going to their appointments.”
The Proactive Squad’s primary role is tackling burglary and robbery, two of the borough’s most common crimes.
Unless the pair are arresting someone, they are out in the borough using powers such as stop and search and overt filming to catch and deter criminals.
Squad boss Sgt Matt Taylor put it simply: “They do not know what they are going to find every day.”
Pc Andrew, who has been a police officer in Redbridge for 14 years, explained that most burglaries actually occurred during the day.
“It is pretty simple, most burglars are cowards, they do not want to get caught.
“So the vast majority occur while hard working people are at their jobs and their houses are empty.”
As we drive out towards Barkingside – one of Redbridge’s burglary hotspots – the officers spot two men standing suspiciously outside Sainsbury’s in Gants Hill.
“Did you see those two guys standing wearing black?” Pc Atkins asks me.
“No,” I reply, despite the fact I was staring straight at the supermarket as we drove past.
Pc Atkins explains: “He had two phones in his hand, a smart phone and what we call a burner. A normal person doesn’t have two phones.”
The officers make several intuitive spots like this throughout the day, also following a man seen running behind a house.
While none of the incidents lead to arrests, it is clear this skilful and under-appreciated work must help prevent crime.
On the way back to the station Pc Atkins sees Sam down a side street off Cranbrook Road, Ilford.
She tells them she went to her appointment, and gratefully accepts when he offers her his lunch – a banana, some crisps and a sandwich.
“Don’t worry mate, see you soon,” Pc Atkins says as the car pulls back on to Cranbrook Road towards Ilford Police Station.