The long arm of the law is reaching even further

The elderly lady on the other end of the telephone is distressed.

On patrol: PCSO Wass chats to a resident in Horncastle’s High Street

Her husband has been admitted to hospital after a fall at home.

She can’t visit him because of Covid restrictions.

She’s lonely, worried and confused.

Another day, another door, another challenge

She’s struggling to remember what happened.

She’s lost her handbag.

She didn’t know who to turn to.

She rang the police.

High praise: Town councillor Alan Lockwood with PCSO Wass

Within minutes, PCSO Nigel Wass was on her doorstep, offering comfort and support.

Thanks to local knowledge, he contacted someone who can form a ‘social bubble’ and help .

Twenty four hours later, PCSO Wass is on another shift. He’s back at the lady’s house.

She’s still confused, but is feeling better.

Covering the local area: PSCO Wass outside Wragby Police Station

Her handbag is still missing but her bank account has been frozen.

PCSO Wass offers more support, including numbers of organisations who can help.

He assures the lady her bank account is secure.

He even puts a ‘cold callers not welcome’ sticker on her door.

Rural route: PCSO Wass at Biscathorpe where he had just checked the locations of two vehicle owners.

“I’ll be back to check tomorrow,” he says.

“Thank you,” replies, the lady, a small smile lighting her anxious face.

Should police be dealing with issues like this?

“Who else is there?” says PCSO Wass.

The previous day, he had dealt with reports of missing persons - and attended a house where a man was threatening to harm himself because of the impact of the pandemic.

He spoke to the man, who calmed down.

Ready for the off: PCSO Wass outside the Transit van in Horncastle’s Church Lane

It was a potentially dangerous situation.

Police are on the front-line for Covid vaccines.

They never know what - or who - is around the corner, or behind that door.

PCSO Wass has completed a foot patrol of Horncastle town centre.

He updated victims of a recent crime, listened to allegations about a dangerous driver and to concerns from someone about a neighbour’s insensitive parking.

He still has several appointments and issues in his diary, including claims about badger baiting in Belchford .

This is modern day a pandemic.

PCSO Wass explains: “There are times when you feel more like a social worker than a police officer .

“Of course, keeping communities safe is still a key part of our role, but it involves a lot more- things people don’t always see, or want to see.”

Current figures suggest that, on average, an officer spends 24% of a shift on crime - and 76% dealing with ‘other’ matters.

Ominously, officers know that huge divide will only increase during the pandemic.

PCSO Wass adds: “Now the Christmas decorations are down - and New Year is behind us - a lot of people are starting to realise how lonely they are.

“We are definitely getting more calls related to mental health issues, the elderly and victims of domestic abuse.

“Some people say we don’t always respond... that we don’t care.

“We do. We live in these communities. We’re affected by the pandemic - just like everyone.

“But, we can only follow up - if people report issues.

“Talking is always the best solution.”

As he parked the Police Transit in the town centre, his radio crackled into life.

There’s yet another missing person; someone with mental health issues in need of help in Louth and a call about a Covid breach at a fishing lake near the coast.

The pandemic has meant significant changes to his job.

He still performs speed checks (“Quieter roads don’t always mean safer roads,” he says) but in general PCSO Wass is dealing with things that his predecessors didn’t have to concern themselves with.

There is, of course, the added responsibility of lockdown regulations.

PCSO Wass admits Covid breaches are few and far between./

He was on duty on New Year’s Eve and patrolled the entire division with a colleague.

“It was very quiet,” he says.

“We drove from one side of the division (Spilsby) to the other (Wragby) and saw a handful of cars.

“If there were any parties, they were very, very quiet.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been reports of breaches.

PCSO Wass explains: “We get calls about people visiting houses.

“We check and more often than not it’s someone who is in a support bubble.

“We also get people questioning why a certain shop is open - even when they are legally entitled to be.

“We’ve had reports of pubs opening.

“When we respond, we find the lights are on but it’s the owner who is sat with his wife and children.

“Again, we need people to carry on reporting things.

“It adds to the work, the ‘thin blue line’ and all that, but that is the job.

“And at least we’ve got a job; money in our in the cupboard.

“A lot of people aren’t that fortunate.”

PCSO Wass admits the vast majority of people abide by the regulations.

As ever, it is the minority who seem intent on causing problems.

As we walk the streets of Horncastle, PCSO Wass confirms officers haven’t issued a fine for an actual breach.

The force-wide message is enforcement is a last resort.

PCSO Wass denies it is ‘soft’ policing and says it is a ‘sensible approach’.

He admits there’s no ‘one size fits all’ policy and people - including the police - are often confused by the various do’s and don’ts.

For example, there’s the regulation permitting exercise, but only as close to your home as possible.

Is it OK, I ask, for people to drive from Horncastle to walk at the coast....20-odd miles away?

“No,” says PCSO Wass. “You shouldn’t make that journey.

“Likewise, people who travel miles to walk in the Wolds need to think again.

“I think our approach is the right way. It might not work in a city ...but it is very different here.

“We will issue fines for persistent or blatant breaches.

“ It’s inevitable it will happen.”

The foot patrol immediately highlights the dilemma police face.

There have been reports that a man and a woman - both OAPs - are regularly sitting in the town centre bus shelter.

They’ve no intention of catching a bus, or shopping.

They admit they are lonely at home and the shelter is warmer (and drier) than seats in the open across the road.

Technically, they are breaching the regulations and could be fined.

PCSO Wass carefully explains to them how they are potentially putting themselves - and others - at risk.

“Stay at home - and stay safe,” he tells them.

The pair move on.

“How can you fine someone in that situation?” says PCSO Wass.

Seconds later, PCSO Wass reassures a victim of recent ASB (a broken window) his complaint is being investigated

In the Market Place, a man approaches, parking ticket in hand.

“I’ve punched in the wrong reg,” he says. “You won’t fine me, will you?”

We move on to Wragby. All is quiet.

It’s noticeable that anyone out waves to the PCSO .

Next, it’s East Barkwith, where PCSO Wass informs the sub-postmaster , also a parish councillor, about work to reduce poaching.

In Biscathorpe, he spots two cars parked near the Viking Way.

A quick check on his mobile computer shows the owners are local.

Next is a very firm request to farm workers to clear a mud-covered section of the Bluestone Heath Road.

The allegation of badger baiting proves to be someone looking for their dog.

Finally, it’s back to Horncastle where we meet local councillor Alan Lockwood who says: “We’re very lucky to have Nigel. He does a great job in very difficult circumstances.”

Rich praise - and deserved.

PCSO Wass moves on.

He doesn’t do the job for thanks, but it helps.

That next appointment is always waiting.