17 May 2002

COUNTRY PC HAS A SMILE AND A WAVE

In the latest of our

series celebrating key

figures in country

communities, Tim Relf

visits a policeman

in Lincolnshire

PC MARK Schofields driving through the Lincolnshire lanes. Its the school holidays and, whenever he passes children playing on their bikes, he slows down, smiles broadly and waves.

Being a friendly face to kids is just one of the ways that the Spilsby-based PC is helping forge links between the police and the community.

And working with youngsters – whether its promoting road safety or raising awareness of Stranger Danger – is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job. "I love the schools part," he says.

"Theyre a good audience – theyre as sharp as sharp. They ask the most searching of questions. Its always a challenge, whether theyre five or 15."

Initiatives with youngsters, Marks convinced, are valuable and pay dividends in the long term. "My firm belief is that if you can attempt to get them on our side and show them that Im just an ordinary bloke not an alien monster, then we are on our way to winning the battle!"

School work, however, is just one of the many and varied tasks undertaken by the police in rural areas nowadays. "A lot of bobbies say its the variety that makes the job – no two days are the same," says Mark.

Many of these tasks, however, are less agreeable – public order disturbances at pubs, domestic incidents and road accidents are among those to which he often responds.

Theft from farms is another issue which rural policeman sometimes encounter. Small items – such as batteries and electric fencing – are often stolen. Red diesel is also targeted – often to be used as a constituent part of tarmac, explains Mark. And then theres hare coursing, a big issue in Lincolnshire. "Its absolutely prevalent."

&#42 Good deterrent

Mark, who joined the police 16 years ago after a short spell working in a bank, recommends farmers use CCTV linked to video recording as a good deterrent and aid to catching criminals. The police have, he says, a good relationship with local landowners. "I dont know a rogue farmer round here."

Relations, in fact, with the whole community are good, he says. "A lot of people are very pro-police – unlike in the inner cities where police can get alienated.

"Theres more of a community spirit here. The folks out here are more my kind of people."

One way in which he interacts with the public is through "walk and talk", an initiative which sees one hour of every shift spent out on foot in the communities.

This also helps the gathering of intelligence for "proactive policing" and helps reduce the fear of crime especially among older people. "There may be a misconception of what goes on. What you see on telly and hear on the radio is worse than the reality."

Mark draws a lot of job satisfaction from the interaction with people in all situations that the job involves. "You gain a lot of self esteem from it."

&#42 Liking people

Indeed, liking people is one of the key requisites needed for a career in the police force, he says. "Youve got to get along with people."

He works shifts and, though nights can be the busiest times, its often then he feels hes having the most impact. Its often then, after all, that there are the assaults, the burglaries, "the things that go bump in the night", he says. "It feels like youre really doing something."

As for the worst part of the job? "Its the social misfits, the social miscreants who just want to fight you."

Drugs, he says, can be a problem in some rural areas – and this, in turn, fuels burglaries and theft.

But Mark reckons he can still switch off when he gets home at the end of a shift. "I do lead two separate lives. I dont really go into Spilsby to eat or drink though. I prefer remote country pubs."

Mark out on patrol and, below, discussing local news with

farmer Bev Riggall.