Domestic, mental health and missing persons incidents among top to tackle for police
- Credit: Lily Newton-Browne
Avon and Somerset Constabulary invited Mercury reporter Lily Newton-Browne to join its officers on a police ride around Weston, to talk about the type of incidents they face over Christmas and all year round
After being welcomed into North Somerset Police Centre, officers Mark Golding and Aaron Morgan were called to reports of a missing young woman in Weston on January 10.
All available units at the constabulary, which covers from Winford up to Gordano, searched around Weston to find the missing woman and the incident had escalated to a high-risk case due to issues surrounding her mental health.
Officer Morgan said: "The biggest jobs we're called out to at any time of year is to attend missing persons and mental health incidents.
"Dealing with these jobs is an issue which sweeps across all services, especially because the calls we attend are normally out-of-hours when there is no mental health team on call.
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"I've got 60 outstanding jobs of my own to attend to and mental health and domestic incidents take up a lot of police time throughout the year.
"It's heavy on resources and we need at least two officers to go to every incident, otherwise we work solo on a job."
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Officer Golding says missing persons incidents can be 'hard to manage' because the constabulary is 'quite thin on the ground'.
Officer Morgan confirmed the constabulary had around 100 outstanding incidents as of early January in North Somerset and said this figure normally drops to around 40 job logs during the summer - which he says 'feels quiet' but is 'still a lot'.
He continued: "We can find our jobs quite stressful due to short staffing issues and we want to attend every incident in the district - but we just can't."
Avon and Somerset officers work six shifts - two morning, two late and two nights - with a four-day rest period after six days on, and, at any given time, three officers are on duty in the area.
During the search for the missing woman, officers use triangulation to try to pinpoint her location, which monitors someone's phone signal by using three nearby antenna towers.
Officers say they cannot track people's phones, only when a friend or family member has given permission for the constabulary to locate the person from their device with apps like Find a Friend, which uses a GPS tracker to monitor a person's location.
Officer Golding continued: "Over Christmas and Boxing Day, we dealt with a lot of domestic incidents, people spend a lot of time with their family at that time of year and alcoholic drinks can be involved.
He said he attended 13 domestic incidents on Christmas day alone.
When asked about attending jobs at more rural areas in the county, such as Wrington, officer Golding said he wished the constabulary had enough resources to 'stop crimes from happening in the first place' in the area.
In response to this, he added that the introduction of logging jobs on a computer at the roadside during an incident has been invaluable to his work and makes the job less time-consuming.
The constabulary has just launched a large recruitment drive for officers at the station and a further three will join the unit towards the end of June.
This is a relief to Officer Golding, as he said in his 17 years at the constabulary he has seen the station go from 30 officers down to 14.
Back in Weston, we drove around the seafront and stopped a few times when the officers spotted someone who looked similar to the woman in the photograph who was declared missing.
Police then received a confirmed sighting of the missing young woman through their radios. She was found safe in Weston and all units were called to stand down.
After an eventful morning, we returned back to the centre.
Officer Morgan has worked at the force for two years. He previously worked as a mechanic for 10 years.
Officer Golding transferred from a Bristol constabulary and is married with two sons, who are aged nine and 14.
He said: "We spend a lot of time saying that it's tough and that we have no staff and we have too much work on, but it's a great job and great fun."
Officer Morgan confirmed he could not see himself doing 'anything else' for a career, and that he 'wouldn't change it for the world.'