Police work was tough. Police work in the North of Scunthorpe could be very tough indeed. Sgt Pol Winchester drove the marked police van down Frodingham road at, what he termed, patrol speed. This translated into a steady crawl of about fifteen miles an hour. It meant that should something happen he could stop the van and get out to deal with it. It also meant that he could be seen by the community for the maximum amount of time. He knew that he had very little actual time to patrol so he had to maximise the exposure. Frodingham Road was a tough beat to have. The old part of town with its tough Victorian side streets, social housing and slum lords had attracted the cheapest people to the cheapest houses. Crime was rife in the area. With the cheap housing came the unemployed of the town and the welfare state dependants. Drug use was endemic in this community. Heroin and crack cocaine the drugs of choice for the residents of this end of town. As Pol slowly drove past the chapel on the Frodingham road he saw the group of street drinkers. He pulled the van up and climbed down. Suddenly forty years old didn’t feel quite as young as once it did. His ankle hurt as soon as he put any weight on it. It was twenty years previously on a rainy Belfast day when the Provo explosion had bowled him off his feet and broken his ankle. Three operations later and he knew he was going to need another before too long. There was a cycle of recovery, a period of stability then it would deteriorate. The conclusion to this cycle would be the next operation. He was due a bigger one this time, a graft. This period of deterioration was the part of the cycle he was now experiencing again. The weight of the stab resistant vest and the equipment belt aggravated it. Each time he took a step the fluid in his ankle joint was forced down into the fissures at the top of his ankle bone. The hydraulic effect of this caused the bone to fragment. The fragments were loose in his ankle and had an abrasive effect in the joint compounding the injury and preventing movement.
This group of drinkers had started to cause a nuisance to the local people. They met up before ten in the morning, every morning, and sat on the benches. The drinking started early and the super strength lager and cider was drunk by the gallon. So by mid-afternoon the gathering had become drunk and raucous. Drunken arguments spilled across the pavement and often erupted into clumsy fights. They would relieve themselves in the street and as Pol walked towards them he was hit by the strong scent of urine. It was approaching mid-afternoon in late May. The sun was shining and the drunks were in fine form.
One of the regulars stood up when the lone police officer approached, he staggered towards the officer. “Do you want a can sergeant?”
“No thank you, I am on duty” The sergeant replied professionally.
He spoke to all of the gathered drunks, there were ten of them sat on the wall around the church. “Listen up guys, I came round yesterday and moved you all on, you are all back today. What happens is every time we come round I record who is here. In a week or so we will get ASBOs for you. Then we will arrest you.”
The group murmured and one lone voice shouted out “Fuck off, black bastard”
The cop was not fazed by this sort of thing. The medal ribbons on his chest represented some really tough challenges not the slurred insults of drunks.
He continued “You all know that I am a reasonable man and that I always show you guys respect”.
Some murmurs of ascent.
“Now, later on I am going to come past here again and I am going to get the constables to come along here. We are going to start to enforce the alcohol exclusion zone now. This is the last warning before we go down that line”
The drunk that initially greeted the sergeant with the offer of a beer spoke up, “Ok Sergeant Winchester, we have got it, but we have nowhere else to go”
“Yeah I know that, Robin, but the thing is people around here are getting a bit fed up of this mess and the bother that you guys are causing them”
Robin Chamberlain had been a problem to the police in Scunthorpe for ten years. Pol Winchester had arrested him many times and they had cultivated quite a rapport.
“Alright then, Sarge” Chamberlain replied. It always amused Pol when he was addressed as ‘Sarge’ by the people he had arrested and dealt with in the charge room when he was custody sergeant.
He knew that later in the afternoon Chamberlain would be the worst of the drunks, he would be shouting abuse at passers-by and publicly pissing in the street in clear view of the main street.
“Right everyone, I have to be off, remember we will come later and look to lock up if you are drinking in the street”
He turned and walked back to the marked police van. As he climbed up into the vehicle he sat in the driver’s seat and watched the group of drunks drift away and evaporate into the alley ways and side streets. They would be back soon and his team would be trying to make an arrest or two tonight to keep the council happy. He wrote in his notebook as he sat there, he had to get it up to date for the day and he might as well do it whilst he was there in the van in the street where he could be seen. On the other side of Frodingham road was a small youth club. It had been converted from a shop and it was now called the Acheron Multi-Cultural youth centre. It had been claimed by the Acheron Street Crew as part of their territory now and as he sat watching the door he saw the self-styled leader of the teenage gang walk out. Kharon Khan was a smartly dressed Asian lad. He was nineteen years old but not working. Pol had done some homework about the lad. He called himself Kazzy Mad Man. It made Pol chuckle to himself when he heard that. Walking behind Khan was his sidekick, a lad called Nuelleh. He was part of the large Somali community and ran with the Acheron Street Crew. Pol was not sure of what part he had to play in their organisation but he was always there, he seemed to be a trusted lieutenant of Khan. They liked to wear some signature piece of clothing. Khan wore a tight knitted black beanie hat with a picture of a revolver embroidered on it. The rest of his clothing was always black except for a red lace in his right shoe. Nuelleh wore a red lace in his right trainer, his signature clothing was a thick leather belt with a heavy oval belt buckle.
Pol was just looking down to his notebook to continue his work when he caught sight of a young white girl following the two boys from the youth centre. He recognised her instantly as Jasmin Peters. The shock of died black hair made her very conspicuous. She was dressed in clothes he thought inappropriate for a girl of her age. The mini skirt and loose low cut t-shirt hung off her slight frame.
Jasmin’s face had appeared on the briefing today. She was missing from the council children’s home in Ashby and had been away for two nights. She was just fourteen years old and had been in care since she was a small girl. Pol remembered the case when her mother was sent to prison together with Jasmin’s step dad. It had been very difficult for Pol to believe that Jasmin’s own mother had been there when the offences had been committed and allowed her husband to do those things to the little girl. There had been some suggestion at the time that she had known from the very beginning that he wanted her only for the little girl and she had encouraged the acts.
Now the girl was starting to fall through the cracks of society and would soon be one of the many statistics. He could already see it starting, the regular missing person reports then it would be minor crime and shop theft. Before long she would be another user and would be on the streets ‘grafting’ for her heroin and crack cocaine. Just another statistic. Wasted.
Pol sprang out of the van and ran across the busy road and into the alleyway behind Acheron Street. Nuelleh was there but Jasmin and Khan were nowhere to be seen.
“Where did they go, Mohammed?”
“I ain’t seen no one, five-O” Nuelleh spoke in his most gangster drawl.
“Don’t be an arse, Mo. Where did they go?” Pol repeated the question.
“I aint helping you, dog. You don’t show me no respect you don’t get none” Nuelleh said, again in his best gangster voice.
“She is just a little girl”
“Not to us, she is nothing” Nuelleh replied.
Anger welled inside Pol. He would like to grab hold of this boy.
“Ok, Mo. We will get you, you know” Pol said to the boy as he walked out of the alleyway and back to Frodingham road. He turned and walked into the youth centre. As he walked in the few remaining lads in there became quiet. There were a couple of pool tables and a large flat screen TV on the wall. The screen showed an Arabic language channel. Abdul Mohammed, the youth leader, was also in the room. He held court. As the policeman walked in the lads all looked towards Abdul. He was a tall, Asian man. Abdul once told Pol that his family had originated from the Kashmir region of Pakistan. But that was his grandfather’s generation. Pol guessed he was towards thirty five years old. Slim build and sporting a beard around his jaw line with a shaved moustache. He wore jeans and a t shirt but a small and neat embroidered kufi hat.
“Good morning, Pol” Abdul greeted the sergeant.
“Morning Abdul, how are you?”
“I am well, and how are you?”
“Thank you for asking, I am also well. Abdul, a few minutes ago Mo Nuelleh, Kharon Khan and a girl were in here. Had they been here long?” Pol asked.
“They were not in here today, Pol” Abdul replied.
One of the boys sniggered.
“I just saw them leave here a few minutes ago” Pol added.
“I think you must be mistaken, Sergeant Winchester”
Pol looked at the man, he had just seen the girl leave the premises. How could he lie so blatantly?
Abdul continued, “I am at a meeting with the divisional commander later this afternoon, should I tell him that you called by or is this unofficial business”
This instantly aroused disdain in Pol, There was no need for him to say this. This was simply a pulling of rank and a posturing manoeuvre by Mohammed. Pol knew he was part of the Divisional Equality Council.
“Mr Mohammed, you can say as you wish to the divisional commander, my business with you is always official”
Pol looked him straight in the eye and said his goodbyes. As he turned to leave he heard one of the lads round the pool table call him a “Kafir”, Pol knew this was an Islamic insult for unbelievers.
He stepped back onto the pavement and the sunlight. Crossing the road he got back into the patrol van and headed back to the station for a cup of tea and a meeting with his inspector. He liked the Inspector and it was a chance to chat about how the team was developing and progressing. He knew that this meeting would be about target setting and the direction that he wanted Pol to take with his work. Pol would have to mention the problems with his ankle. As much as he would like to think that there was no problem it was clear there was. Pol was not able to do foot patrol anymore. Generally this was no problem, as a sergeant he had very little time to foot patrol anyway. He spent the majority of his time in meetings and at his computer terminal. But the annual fitness testing had just about as much as he could manage now. Running on the bleep test had been really impactive on his ankle and he suspected this would be the last time he would be able to pass the test.
“Afternoon, Inspector” Pol walked into the inspectors office and placed two cups of tea on the desk and a packet of chocolate Hobnobs.
“Sergeant, how are you doing?” Inspector Philip Robinson was ten years younger and had ten years less service than the sergeant. He was being groomed to go places, that was clear. But things had suddenly taken an unexpected move for him when he was moved from being the youngest ever Detective Inspector to a Neighbourhood Policing Inspector. Pol suspected that something had clearly happened, he must have really upset someone.
“How is the world of inspecting today, sir?”
“Very well thank you, how is the world of tough police supervision, Sergeant?”
The formality of the banter was very tongue in cheek. Both men had real respect for each other and had become great friends.
The conversation covered the increasing productivity of the team and general management issues then moved to the difficult question of Pol’s fitness.
“Pol, Graham from officer safety training has called me. He says you struggled on Tuesday’s fitness test.”
“Yes sir, it was tough, I am not sure if I can do many more before I have the next foot operation”.
The use of ‘sir’ did not escape the inspector’s attention. They had been chatting on first name terms immediately before this topic had arisen.
“You know, Pol, I will support you through this and I would rather have you as my sergeant than anyone else”
“Thanks, Guv’nor, it is appreciated.”
“Pol, we need to look at the policing plan targets for the next three months”
“Ok, there are a few things starting to brew up that I would like to try to get a grip on” Pol said.
“They are pretty prescriptive I am afraid mate. Burglary dwelling, shop theft and burglary non-dwelling” The inspector read from the email directing him.
“Ok, we have made significant improvements within that and we will continue to see that over the next couple of months. The offender profile for the majority of this volume crime is the same. The group of people we are already targeting are the most prolific offenders in those fields. We will continue to see that.”
They discussed how the drug intervention processes that they put in place had worked. Both men knew that few very active criminals really pushed their statistics high. So they had worked to get the most prolific offenders on methadone programs and watched as their drug fuelled offending tumbled.
“Boss, what do you think about the Acheron Street Crew?”
“We have had direction from the DCI that we are not to get too involved with them”
“I think they are up to all sorts of stuff” Pol said.
“Give me some sort of evidence that I can take back to the DCI” the inspector asked his sergeant.
“What about all of the intel forms that we have been submitting about them?”
“I am going to need more than that, have you got a snout in there?”
“No, Guv, we can’t get a snout in there. They are either juveniles or they are Asians. We find it really tough to recruit from that group”
“Are you sure Pol? You can normally talk them round to our way of thinking.”
The sergeant was coming up against the same brick wall. He understood that the inspector would not yield on this. He tried a different tack.
“What do you think about Abdul Mohammed, from the youth centre?” Pol asked.
“Well I saw that misper from Ashby side coming out of there with Kharon Khan and Nuelleh. I swung in there for a chat with Mohammed and he said that he hadn’t seen them. I know damn well he was lying to me”
“He is a pretty big fish in the community and is a big hitter with the chief super, I hope you have got something solid to run with because if you piss them off you open a whole big can of fuck worms for yourself.”
Pol admired the inspector’s pragmatism. The boss had not ordered him not to go near him and he knew for sure that the sergeant did not have a ‘too difficult’ tray on his desk.
The Inspector looked at pol in the eye. He suspected that the youth centre was, at best, part of the Acheron Street Crew’s ‘turf’ and at worst but most likely that the pillar of the community that is Abdul Mohammed was part of something bigger, darker. The inspector had suspected for a while that the area’s drug supply and prostitution was being looked after by the Acheron Crew. The prostitutes working twenty four hours a day on West Street used to talk to the police. They were victims of the sex and drugs trade as much as anyone. They used to be pimped by their junky boyfriends. Their boyfriends seemed to have faded away from the street and now whilst the girls worked there was a group of boys in the background watching from the memorial gardens.
The vulnerable girls from the children’s homes were turning up at this side of town more and more often. The Inspector watched them as they slowly faded away from society. The first time that the kid went missing the police would give it a big response. But when they had been missing every day for three months that response had started to slip to nothing. The girls’ identity to the police as an organisation had changed from the victim to the pain in the arse regular misper. And so the view of the police as the enemy to the girl was reinforced and the conflict between authority and the ‘glamour’ of running with the Acheron crew was already lost.
The Inspector wanted his sergeant to go after this crew and put them away one at a time, where they belong. The email from the DCI directed him to leave them alone. Directed him to focus his efforts on the commercial burglaries and the massively decreased house burglaries. He knew that he needed to tread a fine line with Pol. Pol was savagely loyal to him but if Pol felt he had been betrayed by the inspector he would have no compunction about letting him take the flak. So whilst he did not personally order Pol to leave the Acheron crew alone he informed Pol that the DCI wanted them left alone and the potential consequences for crossing the line and kicking over the equality hornets’ nest. He knew that Pol understood what was going on and would go about his business in a professional manner.
“Ok, Guv. I suppose we will have to see how things pan out for the time being” Pol said. That simple sentence confirmed both of their understanding.
The meeting then followed the normal course of a personnel briefing by the sergeant and a general chat about the performance of the team. This was interspersed with the odd anecdote. As Pol got up to leave the room the inspector said, “Be careful Pol”. This struck Pol as being unusual. He replied with “Thanks, boss. I will do, you keep safe too”.
Pol returned to his office via the station kitchen with a fresh mug of tea in his hand. He sat at his computer and continued to wade through his daily email list. The station was empty, his constables and community support officers were out on patrol. He could not help thinking about the girl Jasmin Peters. He was quite sure that the Acheron Street Crew had taken to recruiting these young and vulnerable girls for moving of drugs and also, he suspected, they were procured for sexual exploitation. Although this would be a very tough one to evidence. Girls that had been victims of this were not often willing to talk to the police. Often they had been so well conditioned by the shadowy figures that orchestrated the abuse that they didn’t even know that they were being exploited. Sipping his brew slowly pol thought about how he could bring the problem into the spotlight so that he could sell it to the inspector and so that he could sell it to the DCI. He knew how carefully he had to tread. Only two months previously he had been in front of the inspector explaining why the stop search submissions had shown a higher proportion of non-white people had been stopped and searched than the data showed that North Lincolnshire had as population. Pol had later been able to show that within his beat areas the groups that had been searched were in proportion with the population. The meeting had been uncomfortable and there was the insinuation from the senior management that he had acted in a racist manner and his team had been targeting the ethnic minority groups. Pol had totally refuted this and now felt suspicious of the reticence in dealing with the issues he saw.
He opened a new email:
To: Scunthorpe North all staff
Bcc: Robinson. Phil
From: Pol Winchester.
Subject: Vulnerable Mispers
It has recently seemed that more than our fair share of vulnerable mispers are turning up on our beats. Please can you all make sure that when you parade that you check the briefing for the day’s mispers and keep observations out whilst on your duties. Please submit any sightings on an intelligence report and copy me into it. Please make sure you get a full description of any person they are seen associating with.
He would wait and see what that produced. Nothing in that the DCI could criticise and nothing to suggest the Inspector was party to the request.
He collected up his coat and helmet. Closed his pocket book and headed out onto the streets. He thought he would have a quick scout round the alleyways and see if he could find Jasmin. He walked from the station and dropped straight into the alleyways behind Frodingham road. He chose the side that Acheron Street was on. The alleyway was a highway for those who wanted to escape the CCTV system that covered Frodingham road and those who wanted to cross town without drawing attention to themselves.
Pol felt comfortable in the alleyways. In Belfast they used to say “there’s death in the alleys”. But this wasn’t true there. There was more danger in the streets and in the open spaces. In the alleys there was a chance of coming across a terrorist and engaging them. Scunthorpe’s alleys did not hold that level of excitement but Pol had always found them to be a rich hunting ground for criminals.
He walked silently near the side of the alleyway, he had picked up his black coat and left the big high visibility coat hung on the back of his office door, where it belonged. Behind Teal Street and not far from the memorial park he saw what he first took for a bin bag laying in the alleyway. As he got closer he saw and recognised the hair. It was Jasmin. He ran over to her and crouched over her.
She was breathing, but not strongly. Her eyes were open and she was making murmuring sounds. It was the first time he had seen her this close. Her bright blue eyes did not focus. She stunk of alcohol. Her black hair was plastered to her scalp with vomit and a trail of vomit trickled from her nostril. He could see she had the smooth white skin of a child with a few light freckles across her nose.
He called for an ambulance using his personal radio. As he gave his location he looked for the best route in to the alley for the ambulance. He saw West Street, with its working girls and traffic close by and he suggested that that was the best route in and out for the paramedics. He started to perform first aid on the girl. He opened her mouth and removed the vomit with his fingers and then started to check her over for more injury as he ran his fingers over her head feeling for injury her body began to shudder as she retched. He feared she would choke on her own vomit and decided to roll her into the recovery position. To make it easier he bent her knee up and put his hand on it to pull her towards him. With his other hand he cradled her head and gently he rolled her over towards him. He arranged her head to keep her airway open. As he moved his hand from her jawline he saw blood on her face. The blood was on his hand. He had not seen any. As he looked over her to try and discover where it had come from he saw it was on the knee and thigh he had turned her with. There was no wound visible. He checked further up her leg having to lift her mini skirt. He found she was not wearing any pants and the blood was coming from her vagina or anus. The bleeding was not of a life threatening nature. He pulled her skirt back down and covered her with his coat. She deserved some dignity. The policeman stroked her hair back from her face and held her hand whilst he waited for the ambulance. All of the time he talked to her in a gentle reassuring voice.