Neighbourhoods Inspector Mark Peasgood has come a long way in his eighteen and a half years service with Humberside Police.
When he first joined, Inspector Peasgood was the youngest officer in the force at the time at the age of just 19-years-old.
The East Yorkshire born officer has since risen through the ranks to look after and supervise the team of officers responsible for policing north Hull. He spoke about what his team are doing, what challenges they face and the results they’re getting in that part of the city.
Q. Firstly Mark, do you think 19 was a young age to start as an officer? What were your experiences when you were first accepted?
To be honest, it was almost my first life experience! I’d been working within the family business and had been quite cocooned in terms of the outside world.
It was a very steep learning curve. Sink or swim really. I had to grow up very quickly.
After I joined in 2001 I went away to training school in Ryton near Coventry. What this presented me was a completely unnatural way of life compared with what I knew when I was growing up.
It was tough at first. I’d never really been away from home.
Q. So when you finished your training what was the first thing you did as a newly trained officer?
It was a different approach as an officer on the streets. My first station was Bransholme and I came on to seven full night shifts very much as a bobbie on the beat.
I had the big helmet, I was getting on buses, patrolling on nights, out and about in snow and all weathers. I didn’t pass my driving course for two years. They were really good experiences which I still talk about with colleagues.
I then moved onto Tower Grange as part of the Marfleet team, and then moved to the newly built Preston Road police station.
At the time the government had introduced a ‘New Deal’ scheme to help fifty of the most deprived areas of the country. The Preston Road estate in Hull was one of them.
They gave a substantial amount of money to the community, and the community got to choose what they wanted. One of the things they chose was to have a local policing team.
What that taught me was the benefits of neighbourhood policing and partnership working. That model is what I reflect on and use today when I set up processes and things within my teams now.
Q. What were the benefits?
Well, to set the scene, while at Preston Road I remember being deployed sometimes with two cars – one car deployed to the incident, the second to look after the first car.
I was once in a premises on Preston Road and my car got set on fire outside. Petrol was poured over it and it was set alight.
So New Deal helped us to get really involved with other groups to tackle the issues in the area. We’d have a partnership tasking group every Tuesday alongside voluntary agencies such as Probe and Purple House.
We had anyone and everyone around the table that could make a difference to those communities. Literally it was bringing everything to the table, and then tasking them all out.
Everyone knew that if they were tasked, they’d bring back results and outcomes. It was a really good experience and set those foundations that we work with today.
There’s always more than one way to skin a cat. By utilising and working in partnership we can make offenders lives more difficult and benefit the communities we serve.
Q. Now your teams look after other estates that have come under the spotlight recently, such as Orchard Park and Bransholme. What are the comparisons?
I look at those experiences in Preston Road I’ve spoken about, and I look at Bransholme and Orchard Park now and they’re nowhere near that.
We do have little pockets of problems but we certainly don’t have those issues like we used to do on Preston Road.
From my point of view it’s absolutely right to listen to our communities in north Hull. We’ve done a lot of that through Humber Talking. We’ve visited more than 6,500 houses on Orchard Park alone.
We’re here to serve our residents. If we didn’t listen we wouldn’t fully understand the needs and wants and expectations of the people living there.
The frustration for me is not borne out by any criticism – I know what my staff are doing. I know the work that’s going in. Sometimes our work takes some time to come to fruition.
I look at recent reports about Orchard Park being a no-go zone. I’ve spoken time after time about that it’s a core group of youths that are causing issues on the estate.
We have seen some of those individuals being sent to young people’s institutions, got custodial sentences and families being evicted because of the behaviour.
These things can take time though. I know people want it there and then but it’s finding that balance of doing it timely enough, while also managing public expectations. As much as we’d like to, we can’t do everything straight away.
Also we don’t just want to chuck the book at young people. Some are vulnerable young individuals. We don’t want just prosecute and further damage or dent any future prospects they might have. We want to try and rehabilitate them, work with youth offending teams, work with schools to try and get them out of the cycle that they’re in.
If they don’t engage then we will take appropriate action to protect our communities.
There’s some really good work going on before these individuals even come to our attention. We have school behaviour contracts, and acceptable behaviour contracts which we run with Hull City Council.
If that doesn’t work we work closely with youth offending services and there’s a stepped process to go through. We consult with them to see what we can and can’t do, and what the next steps should or shouldn’t be. It’s not all about criminalising youngsters.
Q. Is this your main challenge for north Hull?
It’s one. What I also look for is stability amongst my teams because I want the right person in the right location and to have that local knowledge. That’s key having bobbies that know an area.
I want to bring that knowledge and expertise into my team.
What I always stress is that I want my officers to be visible. That’s a massive thing. We do have access to more vehicles but I always want my staff to park up and get out and walk and speak with people.
The public say they never see us but we are there. If we’re passing in a car it’s obviously a lot quicker. On foot we’re a lot more visible.
Another thing is that our time is really valuable now. We want and try to meet and speak with as many people as we can, but it can be more difficult with the pulls that we have.
Meetings have got to be productive. Not just ticking a box. I want my officers to go to meetings that are well attended to get information that can be progressed. I want their commitment to be accessible as possible to the people that we serve.
Q. There have been concerns about nuisance motorbikes and antisocial behaviour in parts of north Hull. What’s been done to tackle that?
Motorbikes have been an issue that’s been around for years. However recently our force’s response particularly through Operation Yellowfin has increased.
I think for Hull it’s been a crime priority for a period of time now. The good thing is, is that our action is working.
We’re also doing it in conjunction with Humber Talking where motorcycles was one of the main cause of concern. One of the big positives is that we can go back and say that we have got results. I mentioned earlier about some youths in that core group. They were the ones that OpYellowfin was targeting.
In terms of antisocial behaviour, there’s a fine line between ASB, kids just being kids, to criminality. It’s about that tipping point.
I talk about early engagement and early intervention so we can get to deal with and speak to kids early on.
If we can to them early enough, then we can show them where the tipping point is. It’s that balance of if they listen and take our advice, we’ll leave them alone.
If they don’t we’ll try as much as possible to engage, but when the tipping point comes we have to get other agencies involved. That’s our stepped approach.
I feel if we get to a point where a young person ends up in prison, I feel we’ve let that young person down. I would feel that we’ve failed them.
We can turn things around before that happens. But there does come a point where we simply have to take that positive action and prosecute.
Q. How would you sum up your job?
Getting out and about is the best bit. Every day is different. I know that’s a cliché that everyone says but you couldn’t get up in a morning and guess what stuff you might be dealing with. It’s the best but most challenging part.
We get involved in volatile, and sometimes harrowing situations in order to protect the public. It’s that sense of pride and doing something right that puts us here, and I couldn’t be more proud of the team I’ve got.
I’m very keen on wellbeing. Maybe in the past it’d be a case of ‘get on with it’ but the stuff that some of my staff experience is really quite tough. We can see people at their worst and lowest points.
We’re not resting on our laurels. We’re pushing ourselves forward. Again, if we identify similar problems in other areas we’ll move the successful model we’ve got and use it in another area.
The police have gone through a lot of challenges and I want to make sure the public are with us. At the end of the day we’re here to do a good job for them in the best way we can.