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POLICING IN THE TOWN CENTRE IN THE 1990s

Ex PC Bill Joy

 

D. W. IF YOU HAVE READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW OF PC L LESTER, ABOUT POLICING IN BARWELL DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR, YOU WILL SEE HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN THE WAY OUR AREA IS POLICED, AND HOW THE POLICEMAN HAS CHANGED.

 

Edited transcript of the conversation between Mr. Bill Joy and Mr. D. J. Wood.


BJ. Ok. My name is Bill Joy; my date of birth was 29th December 1945. To day is Thursday 26th February 2004.

DW.  Can we start with your time, when you where Policing the Town Centre? I understand you spent a lot of time on just that job. Your responsibility was the Town Centre, so could we talk about the Town Centre Policing, and the problems you had and the sort of things you encountered.

BJ. OK in 1987, the Leicestershire Constabulary had one of its many reviews. One of the recommendations that came out of this review was that we should have a number of Community Beat Officers on Hinckley Town Centre for the first time ever, actually officers dedicated to policing the Town Centre. In the April of 1988, in actual fact on the 4th of April 1988, I was one of three officers who started work as Town Centre bobbies in Hinckley Town Centre. It was quite an exciting time because, my only introduction to community style policing happened when I was at Sapcote from 1977 through to 1981. That was the first real piece of Community Policing that I had done and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to it. I was also very conscious of the fact that, um, because the officers who went down the Town Centre were taken from shifts, I was also very much aware of the fact that we’re probably be back on the shifts after six months, because they just could not afford to take three officers out. That was a critical part of the early days of policing in Hinckley Town Centre. Certainly we were, all three of us, committed to it, but I was certainly focused on making a success of it. 

 

I would have had about twenty-one or twenty-two years service in the Police at that time, I joined in 1965, I would have had twenty-three years service in. So the Police service did not expect anything of me at that time because I'd got twenty three years in, and provided I didn't go and break the law, and get myself the sack, nobody was going to chase me around the place. I was determined in actual fact. This was the first time that there had been any sort of dedicated Police Officer in the Town Centre that um I was going to make a success of it. So straight away I began to meet up with um, local organizations such as the Chamber of Trade. I actually went to meet local Councillors, um, and particular officers at the Council Offices, and in fact I worked with them for years and years while I was the Town Centre bobby. There were lots and lots of problems down the Town Centre at that time. Not so much huge crime problems but um, for instance we used to have a lot of shoplifting. We used to have lots of young lads going crazy round the Town Centre causing damage, smashing windows and doing that type of thing. So I was trying to work out a game plan, as how I was going to address these problems and at that time, I’ve forgotten the name of the gang now, but there was a particular gang in the Town Centre. There was about forty of them and they always went round together, causing trouble for people, beating people up, smashing windows, and um, breaking into cars, smashing shop window and taking stuff out, and that sort of thing. I came across these forty kids at a very early stage and I decided that we weren't going to have any gangs in Hinckley Town Centre.


DW.  What sort of date was this?  

BJ.  It was about, err, within six months of my going on the Town Centre, so we are looking at late 1988 early 1989. So I was constantly chasing these young people round the Town Centre, constantly arresting them for all sorts of crime, and eventually the day came when I met up with three or four of the gang leaders, and I said “Look. I’m going to be on the Town Centre here for a number of years, and I’m not going to have any of this. This has to stop, so lets try and work together and see what the problems are and see if we can help each other to resolve them.” Three of these gang leaders we actually met up in the Salvation Army Hall, having a cup of tea. I said to them “What is it you want”. “Well we have nothing to do, and there’s no where to go” “What do you want to do? “ “ We would like to do things like, well we can’t afford to go to the Leisure Centre”. “What would you do at the Leisure Centre if you went there? ”. “We’d like to do five a side football and that type of thing”. OK. Lets go and see the people at the Leisure Centre. 

 

So I made an appointment to go and see the two guys. The two gentleman in charge of the Leisure Centre, at that time on behalf of the council, and I went with two of these three lads and I said “You talk to them and I will be there to support you, and we will see how it works out”. So we went up to have this appointment, and the upshot of that meeting was that all young people under sixteen years of age, who had a need and felt a desire to, where allowed to go in the Leisure Centre at a reduced price, on certain evenings of the week, not every evening, on certain evenings of the week. Also they were allowed to start up a five-a-side football and I actually went down to the very first, it was on a Wednesday evening, and I went down to the very first game, they had down there with some of their mates.  

 

So, we started to get this rapport going. We started to get this relationship going, and over the next two years, eighteen months probably, the gang began to break up, and they realised that there was no future doing the type of things they were doing, being arrested, dragged up before a court, getting all sorts of sentences, bringing shame on their parents etc. etc. So, over the next eighteen months or so the whole gang broke up. I think that was an early example of what was achieved, because Hinckley Town Centre had its own officer, or officers. Hinckley Town Centre had three officers on the Town Centre for only six months as I had suspected, and I soon became aware of the fact that probably all three of us were to have to go back on shifts. 


 This was part of the problem I had in the early days, so what I did I contacted the local press. I arranged for them to come up to the Police Station to take photographs of the three of us, so we could tell Mr and Mrs Public out there “Look there are three officers now on Hinckley Town Centre if you have a problem come and talk to us.” So, soon after this I became aware that all three officers were going back on shifts. So I went to see the boss and said, “ You can’t do this because we’ve already told the public that they have got dedicated officers in the Town Centre “. 

 

So to cut a long story short, I ended up staying on the Town Centre as a permanent Town Centre Officer and the other two went back on shifts. So started a term of my working in the Town Centre. I spent a total of nine years on the Town Centre, and in fact it was the last job I did prior to my retiring in 1997. During that time, on the Town I started something that had never been done before, and still goes on today, and that was actually going in to shops. I started going into the odd shop, having the odd cup of tea, and sitting down and talking to people about their problems. I got caught one day by a Sergeant coming out of one of these shops, and he said um, asked me if I had been dealing with a crime and I said “No I had not been dealing with a crime. I started to go into all of these shops and I will get round to going into every one of them.’ He said, “You can’t do that” “Why not” Because he said “You need to be on the streets.” Anyhow I had a discussion with him, and he came round to my way of thinking. I ended up going into these shops, and fore the next eight, nine years I went into these shops. Not every one every day, but over the period of a week, I would visit every shop in the Town Centre, and very often I would just go in there, I would speak to the staff, speak to the Manager or Manageress, I would speak to customers. Many of the customers would come in and say, “PC Joy I have got a problem can I talk to you about it” “Why not if the Manager does not mind, or would you like to go outside,” and so that problem was sorted. This was community policing, and the more I did of it the more I liked it, and the more I did of it the public liked it, and got used to me standing in shops like Adams, and in the middle of Britannia Centre, all these places, and it got so that when I went into these shops, people for instance on my birthday I’d go into certain shops there’d be a cake, they’d been out and bought a cake for me, they’d have the staff round and sing happy birthday to me. 

 

I can remember on a Friday night um, each weekend I used to go into the pubs, that had never been done either, because it was not allowed for a Police Officer, a uniformed Police Officer, to go into a pub. I broke that, because I said to my Sergeant and Inspector, “Its important to me as the local bobby not to have any places that I can’t go into. I’m not going into a pub and drink alcohol in front of customers in uniform, but if I am ask to have a drink I will have one, but it will be tea or coffee.” It always was, and when I when into pubs and clubs in the Town Centre, and they would be discussing things with the customers or the barman, they’d turn round and say, “would you like a drink,” and I’d say “yes I’d love one, I’ll have a cup of tea please,” and I’d stand there at the bar and have a cup of tea with them.  

 

I can well remember on a Friday night when I was on one of my trips around the pubs. I’d always start at the top of Castle Street, Castle Tavern, and I’d work my way down, Castle Tavern, New Buildings into the Plough, and come down into the Town Centre and visit all the pubs, and it was all recorded and all the rest of it. I’d come out the Castle Tavern and walk down the top end of Castle Street and I could hear all this noise coming from the direction of New Buildings. So I walked along New Buildings and wondering what it was, bearing in mind it was a Friday night of course, I came to the junction of Stockwell Head. I saw about fifteen lads, who had just come out of the Greyhound pub on the right hand side, and they were well gone, they had obviously had some pop. So the next thing was they were singing PC Joy, putting their arms like this (Both arms stretched out in front) PC Joy, PC Joy, PC Joy, and I thought this is either going to go pear shaped or it’s going to go away. So I thought I am not going to turn round and walk away from them, so I continued to walk towards them. The next thing that happened to me, and this is true, and the next thing that happened to me was, as I approached them, as I got close to them, a few of them ran to me, lifted me up, took me helmet off, and I was up on this guys shoulders and I sat with my legs round, I mean I had no choice. There were people all around me they kept me helmet; they didn’t do anything with it they just had it. They carried me on their shoulders all the way down Castle Street into the Market Place, outside what was then the Bounty pub, and there they let me go and they went into the Bounty waving their hands to me and saying good-by to me and all this sort of stuff, real good humoured stuff. The important part of this is of course, when it came to two o’clock in the morning and I had to come back to supervise the pubs and the clubs kicking out in the Town Centre, Friday night early on Saturday morning, there was huge potential for trouble, huge potential, but these fifteen guys got together when they’d been in the Bounty, they came out of the Bounty, and of course saw me outside the Bounty, and went PC Joy, PC Joy and they came over and it was all good humoured, there was no trouble, one or two or them got a little bit to excited. I was able to go over to them and say “Look, come on lads, you know its three o’clock in the morning, its time you went home and all that sort of stuff” “OK, fine we are going” no trouble. Community Policing at its best, because I know them and they know me, and err, they know full well I’d be back on the streets the following night. I could pick them out if I needed to go and take it a stage further. I had no need to thankfully because they recognized I was just there doing my job, and I was sporty enough about it to take part in the good humour that went on. So, err, its about relationships, and its about, um, its about working with the public, for the safety of the public and that was something that I practised for the whole nine years, and never regretted at any point what I was doing. 

 

Whole new boundaries were changed, like going it to the pubs, and into the shops, and um, I used to have a shift, I had my own separate shift system, which I devised, and in the main, it allowed me to work in the Town Centre during the day when the shops were open and people were about. It allowed me some weekends to actually work late shifts so I could visit the pubs and visit the clubs. I had an excellent relationship with all in the Town Centre. Obviously there was some that you had the need to arrest from time to time, um, but you can’t help that. You know I found out at a very early stage that if people get the impression that you are so nice all of the time, and you won’t arrest anybody; you’re making problems for yourself. So I had to lay down the law right from day one, and let it be known that I wouldn’t take any messing about if people went to far, and had been warned, they would find themselves arrested, and they did, and as long as they knew there was a boundary that they couldn’t go beyond, and I would arrest them if the need came to it, we had an excellent relationship with each other.


DW. You had a fair amount of trouble when you first started in the Town Centre, did it taper down or did the situation change because of your policing methods.

 BJ. They changed; I was going to say “I would like to think they’d changed” but they actually did change, and one of the great successes of my work in the Town Centre, and something that still goes on to this day, well actually there was one or two success, two major successes; one of them was setting up a Child Watch in the Town Centre, which I set off. That was were I had, they are still displayed on shop windows and on doors and in shops in the Town Centre there was a hundred and thirteen all together that I put out in the Town Centre. It was running along side, the same time as my charity Child-Link. I wanted something in the Town Centre that allowed children to feel safe, if they got lost. So what I devised was three penguins, Mummy penguin, and two baby penguins, like so, in a circle with a red circle round, and I had these printed. I got the funding to have these printed, five hundred of them and I delivered them to shops, and I devised a system were by if a child actually went in to one of these shops, if a child got lost, then they would look for the nearest shop, and they were all over the place. They would look for a shop, which had one of these on the front window, they would tell the staff inside that they were lost. The member of staff inside would ring the Police Station and say “We’ve got a lost child here can somebody come in” then I would go in make sure that the child was OK, leave the child there. Then we would go and try and find the parent, and we had, up to the time I left the Police in 1997, we had over a hundred children found safe because of that system. That’s the system that actually went to; I exported it to Holland, because we went over there on an exchange trip with the Police in 1995 and err I brought this idea, this concept with me. ‘Cus we were working with the community Police Officers over there and I brought a few of these sticker with me, and they set up this scheme in Holland, that was one thing. 

 

The other really successful thing was the Hinckley Anti-thief Group, when I went down the Town Centre they had an Anti-thief Group there but it hadn’t been very successful. There was very, very few shops took part in this scheme. So what I did, I went to see the co-ordinator of it and explained in actual fact, what we should do is get more shops recruited into the scheme, on a basis that, because of the proportion of crime that was happening at that time, err shop lifting in the main, we ought to try and let it be known to these people who are coming from Leicester and Coventry, all points north south east and west that it was not easy pickings. They wouldn’t get away with it very easily in Hinckley. So, we re-launched. After about six month we re-launched the Hinckley Anti-thief Group. I was the contact point from the Police point of view and then we had a Co-ordinator in the Town Centre from the business point of view. I got some money, some funding for radios, we were one of the first groups in; one of the first groups in the country to actually have as a private group our own radio net work. I had one of their radios, and my own radio of course, a Police Radio, the Co-ordinator had a radio, and as we got more and more radios, we set up a system where by, if you had a suspect; if you had a report of a suspect in the Town Centre and they got a description, I would pass that message to the Co-ordinator, he had four groups, and he would pass the message to leaders of the four groups and they in turn would ring, would ring each other. Ring all these different shops. So within ten to fifteen minutes we used to have sixty or seventy shops in the Town Centre who where aware of the existence of these people, and they used to keep an eye open for them. Up to the time I left the Police in 1997, we had over a 150 arrests in the Town Centre, where information had come in the main from business people who had their job to do. They were there to make money for their employers but at the same time the relationship between myself and them was so good that we worked very closely together. The results was, Hinckley had a name. 

 

I have magazines; I have paper work in my office that talks about, Police Magazines that talk about the success of the Hinckley Anti thief Group on a regional bases. Also in magazines like Police Review which is a country wide magazine. We had officers from some of the major Metropolitan Forces, Lancashire and Yorkshire, down to see us. The Child Watch scheme I was telling you about, with the three penguins, there where actually fourteen other forces that set up a similar Scheme based on my idea of Child Watch. That’s now it was major Metropolitan Forces like Metropolitan Police London, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Denmark, set-up in Holland so that was set-up all over the place. The Anti thief Group to this day is still running in the same way it was when I left the job, so that was a huge success. It was down to the relationship between the officer on the ground and the business people. 


DW.  I understand during the period in the Town Centre, that you have not always got away with it by controlling the situation, on one or two times the situation got out of hand and you have ended up for the worst of it.

BJ.  Well I have, yes, I ended up in hospital on a total of six occasions, and there was one particular, ah one particular time, the first time actually. There was a crowd of nearly three hundred at the bottom of the Horse Fair in George Street – Regent Street corner. We’d had a lot of troublemakers over from Tile Hill in Coventry and they came over and brought all these cars with them. They came in all these cars but it was in the boot of these cars that they brought, Whisky Bottles, empty Whisky Bottles and what they where doing, they’d break the Whisky Bottles on the corner of a wall, run them down the side of cars, damaging all these cars. I met some of these guys and I advised them to go back where they came from, and I was prepared to get a van load of officers to make sure they went back to their own areas, and we didn’t want any trouble in the town, but it went pear shaped and the upset of it was I got dragged in under the old George Ballroom in the Horse Fair by six of them. I was put up against the wall and given a good hiding. I ran after two of them down near the taxi rank, and the next thing was one of their cars came down the Horse Fair, drove straight at me. It hit me I went up in the air about six foot came down and landed on my spine and um I thought that night I was finished and so did a lot of other people, because my spine was damaged. 

 

On another night at two o’clock in the morning, myself and a Sergeant were sitting in the middle of Regent Street on the ground, and err, my thumb had been pushed back, almost back to my wrist, and it messed up all the ligaments here, (Pointing to the bottom of his thumb.) I was in wicked pain and err they had to take me to hospital. I came back the following day from hospital. They kept me in over night and I had the whole of my left arm in plaster. So, I have had some hairy situations, but at the end of the day, even in those situations, a lot of the people of the Town Centre who helped me and supported me, were people I used to meet and deal with every day in the Town Centre, some of them shop keepers. So once again its that contact that’s so important. It was the personal nature of the relationship between myself and the people I knew in the Town Centre, and still even though I left the job seven years ago those relationships still continue to this day.


 DW. Thank you very much

 BJ. My pleasure.

 Transcript by Jean & David Wood. 

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