Even if you don't know the name Ben Scott then you'd probably recognise his face. Our local PCSO has been racking up the column inches ever since he was given the nod to officially tweet from Greater Manchester Police's Didsbury twitter account @GMPDidsbury
The account that Ben manages shares news, appeals, trivia and relevant information about local and Manchester police matters in a way that hasn't been seen until recently.
Although not a means for reporting crimes (we clarify how to do that below), people can send Ben information about potential problems and ask him question about local policing issues.
We managed to corner Ben recently for long enough to ask him a few questions. Hopefully you'll be hearing much more from him and some of the other 17 local PCSOs very soon.
Fetch: In a nutshell, what is a PCSO?
Ben: Police Community Support Officers (or better known as PCSOs) are officers who are part of Neighbourhood Policing. PCSOs are police staff, not Police Constables and are there to work alongside Police Officers and contribute and enhance the work of Neighbourhood Policing. PCSOs are there to engage with the local community and provide a visible and accessible presence for local people. PCSOs become very aware of what regular and ongoing problems and issues that are effecting the area where they work. From this PCSOs will try to work with the local community and partner agencies (e.g. council, housing association) to address these problems. PCSOs spend a good amount of their time on patrol in the community and keep an eye out for houses left insecure, valuables left in cars, suspicious people etc. PCSOs also become very knowledgeable about local criminals and criminal activity and regularly gather intelligence about what local criminals are up to. PCSOs do not have power of arrest, but have power to issue fines for crimes including littering, criminal damage, throwing fireworks, truancy and additionally have powers to stop and search in authorised areas, seize tobacco from persons under 16 and require persons drinking in no alcohol zones to surrender alcohol.
Fetch: How would someone get into the job, is there much training?
Ben: GMP will advertise PCSO vacancies on the GMP website or local press. However there is going to be no recruitment for PCSOs or Police Officers for the foreseeable future due to budget cuts. The classroom based training for PCSOs last for 8 weeks. Training includes roles and responsibilities, conflict management, public order and anti social behaviour and dealing with major incidents.
Fetch: How many other PCSOs do you work with?
Ben: I work with 17 other PCSOs who are based at Didsbury Police Station. These officers cover Didsbury, Withington, Old Moat and Burnage wards. There are also 32 Police Officers based at Didsbury Police Station.
Fetch: Talks us through your average day?
Ben: I will come on duty and the first thing is to have a briefing with with the rest the officer on my shift. The Sgt will give out any jobs or crimes that need to be dealt with. We will also go through any area that need to be given attention while on patrol,. This may be due anti-social behaviour or burglaries etc. I will then find myself a computer and go through the incidents that have happened in the area in the 24hrs. I will check my e-mails and do any updating/paperwork that needs to be done. And I will of course update twitter with crimes that have occurred!
Fetch: We've heard you talking about using bikes to get around. Is that your usual method of transport when on-shift?
Ben: Yes, we use pedal bikes most of the time to get from A to B. They allow us to get around more quickly cover more ground when out on patrol. Also good exercise!!
Fetch: Tell us about a funny incident you've had to deal with.
Ben: I remember we had a report of a bloke in a alleyway dressed in all dark clothing. Thought he was looking to break into a house. However turned of to be a plain clothes police officer!! I also remember being on patrol and I saw a student climb into a wheelie bin, then climb out again! Very odd!!
Fetch: You're a heavy user of Twitter under the official account for @GMPDidsbury and just flown past 2000 followers. What are the benefits you see in using Twitter as a PCSO?
Ben: I think it allows us to communicate with local people in a way we never been able to do before before. It allows us to communicate with local people in real time and I think gives them access to information they would normal not be able to see. It allows us to get the crime prevention message out to people. It gives local people the chance to communicate with ourselves in a accessible way. I think it also helps show the human side of policing, although at times we giving out quite serious information about crime in the area there is an element of informality about it I think this can help reduce barriers that may exist between police and community.
Fetch: What are the main issues you regularly deal with in and around Didsbury?
Ben: Didsbury Neighbourhood Policing Team is the largest and busiest in the whole of Greater Manchester Police. We cover 5 wards, these being: Didsbury West, Didsbury East, Burnage, Withington and Old Moat. So from this, the issues we deal with can differ allot. But I suppose some of the main issues we deal with would be youth related anti-social behaviour in all five wards, begging and vagrancy issues in Withington and Didsbury Villages, noise problems relating to students around Withington, Giving advice about home security to local people regarding burglaries in the area.
Fetch: What is the best way of getting into Policing?
Ben: GMP is presently recruiting Special Constables and Community Volunteers. In terms of recruitment for Police Officers in the future they will come from Specials, PCSOs and Community Volunteers so if someone is interested in becoming a Police Officer their best bet would be to apply to become a Special Constable. Even if you don't want to become a full time cop and you just want to do something different, becoming a Special Constable or Community Volunteer is a great way of giving something back to your community. If anyone is interested visit http://www.gmp.police.uk/recruitment for more information.
Fetch: Thanks for your time Ben. We hope to hear from you again soon.
You can find local crime statistics, and keep up with both the @GMPDidsbury and @GMPolice accounts via our Policing Page.
How do I report a crime?
In an emergency you should dial 999. An emergency is when a crime is being committed or has just been witnessed, there is a risk of injury, or a risk of serious damage to property.
In an non-emergency you should dial 0161 872 5050. Use this number to report a non-emergency incident or make a general enquiry.