Inspector Tony Towse is the neighbourhoods inspector in charge of the team of officers in east Hull. With nearly a quarter of a century under his belt as an officer, he knows a thing or two about what’s required on his watch.
He grew up in that part of the city, went to school there, his friends and family are from there, and knows the communities who live there. During his police career Inspector Towse has seen east Hull transform from what was once one of the most deprived areas in the country. So what’s changed?
Q. What brought you into the police force Tony?
This is my community. For me, working here is home. In the best way, I felt I could help and I did think I could have an impact. It might seem clichéd, but I still always do.
My background is in east Hull so working here I can connect with the people, where sometimes maybe people coming in from different areas or backgrounds need to build up rapport and build relationships with the community.
It wasn’t always an ambition to join the force. I left Greatfield School and went to work on the dock for Yorkshire Dry Dock as a shipwright. Even back then I felt that the industry could go down, which it sadly did. At that point I wanted to join the police which is where I’ve been now for 24 years.
In those days, it took me two and a half years to get in. It was a long time for people to wait to get in due to the process so I started my application when I was about 18 or 19.
While I was waiting I used to work on fruit machines, the DSS, caravans – I worked in a number of different jobs waiting to come in.
Q. What are the main changes you’ve seen in your 24 years?
Massive changes. I came into the force about ten years after the ‘Life on Mars’ days! It wasn’t that bad, but let’s say the old CID was a lot different.
We are quite rightly held more to account nowadays. We meet with our communities more. In years gone by it felt like we were just responding to calls but it’s definitely improved as we engage more.
I was based at Queens Gardens on patrol. We had to walk for the first two years of your career, so I walked until I was given a car course. I patrolled from Waterhouse Lane to the Woodcock Street area.
I’ve worked all over. In traffic, crime, in the East Riding. I was a PC for 10 years, a sergeant for 4 years, and an inspector for nearly 10 years.
There would sometimes be 250 outstanding reports to go to. I would have 50 plus crime reports in my tray to investigate. When I look at where we are now, we don’t have anywhere near that. The progress is phenomenal. I’m very keen to point out where we’ve come from, to where we are now.
When I look back at where we were, the improvements have come on leaps and bounds and that’s a real key point.
We record crime differently now and more people report things to us which is a good thing. From my time as a PC certainly, Hull is much different now. We’ve moved on in the way we work with communities, with our partners and so on. I think we need to be proud of what we’re doing and where we’ve come.
Q. What do you focus on in your part of the city? What do you look at?
As it currently stands we’re all one team and work together, but we still have the different departments. So we have patrol who are officers who go round in cars on ‘blue light’ jobs responding to incidents. We have CID who investigate a lot of the crime, and we have neighbourhood teams.
One of our main goals is to find out what’s going on, to problem solve, and provide targeted activities. We cover six wards from Drypool to Longhill.
There is a broad variety of officers who work here, and one of my jobs is to be aware of everything that’s going on. It might not be my team who deal with it, but I need to be aware of it.
These things are things like vulnerability or domestic abuse. I need to know to know where that’s going on so my staff can help.
We can look at different approaches to solving problems with who we call our ‘partners’, That’s the council, volunteers, charities etc. There’s a multitude of different agencies and different people getting together.
We’ve mentioned before that we’re 17% down on antisocial behaviour where the old Preston Road estate was since last year. Some crimes look like they’ve gone up, but that’s the public reporting it more.
It’s no good us going in and solving just one problem. The neighbourhood teams have to make communities as resilient as possible and we have to provide ongoing reassurance.
I know from doing Humber Talking that one thing residents say to us is that they love the sense of community. They love the sense of ‘home’. If we can harness that – the communities, the police, and partners – then we’re all in it together to make it the best place that we can.
I can’t stop all crime. I’ll never be able to. But what I can do is reduce the impact and that’s one of the big things.
Different things affect people differently so I never class anything as ‘low level’. Somebody could be assaulted and they’re not bothered about it. Somebody could be a victim of a theft and it effects them massively.
We have to realise and understand that. We treat everyone as an individual, look at the specific circumstances and deliver what people want.
Q. So how do your officers achieve that?
What you’ll get from me and my team is honesty. I won’t promise something that I can’t deliver. I would rather be up front from the beginning rather than make a promise I can’t achieve. Whether that is because the law won’t allow us to or whatever, I’ll be honest. But we always look at other options and other ways to help.
Q. You mention the feeling of ‘community’ and ‘home’. Does that have a bearing on the work your officers do?
I feel the people of east Hull have a real feeling of belonging. There are lots of families here who have been here for generations. I imagine that will continue. It creates a feeling of, like I say, ‘home’ and people don’t want to leave.
Hull is seen from the outside as a deprived city. That’s unfair and could offend some people if you listen to some reports, but in my experience the sense of pride I get from the people who live here is very high.
We’ve had the City of Culture, there are new processes going on, and new projects coming up. We have to build on that and release the potential of this city and of the people.
My officers don’t just want to see people when something bad has happened. We too are a part of the community and we talk with people even when there isn’t an issue. It’s our visibility and engagement that matters.
We are involved with schools, younger kids, and families to find out what the problems are. Some people have very little contact with the police and their impressions are often anecdotal and sometimes negative.
If someone has had a bad experience, that can get passed on. People don’t always pass on good experiences. We want to tell people the good news that we have, what we’re doing and the results we’re getting.
Q. There have been reports about ‘groups of youths’ who, it’s claimed by some, are causing problems. Is this something you recognise and how do you deal with it?
Kids move about more and their social activities are broadening. They’re getting to know different people. Once, it may have been that kids would hang around their own estates and that was it, but not so much anymore.
Years ago in the Preston Road area there were a lot of problems that took a lot of work to solve. Lots of resources too. The situation is very different now.
I mentioned that we have had a drop in ASB since the regeneration of the Preston Road estate. There was an art project there (see left) and many of the youths who, let’s say, were causing problems said they liked it and didn’t want to see the art disappear. So they didn’t cause as much trouble. That’s the pride I was talking about.
If there is anything bubbling, the whole team of officers will work to solve that issue. The public need to tell us about their concerns which they’re doing more and more.
We have lots of projects here in east Hull such as The Hut and other youth projects and Purple House which deals with domestic abuse. Tommy Coyle has been here with his bus recently which got a great response.
One big concern is antisocial behaviour. If it’s a policing issue then we will deal with it. If it’s not, but we can assist, then we’ll obviously do that too. No-one wants anything to get out of hand. That’s why we all work together.
I do feel we’re on top of a lot of the issues east of Hull. Some problems are unforeseen and just happen of course. As soon as things become problematic and blown out of proportion, they can become resource intensive which can take officers away from other, sometimes, critical incidents.
What I’m doing at the moment is ensuring we can maintain what we have now, make things better and be out and about as much as we can.
Q. What are the best and worst things about the job?
Not once have I never wanted to come to work. I take pride in achieving something. I’ll be here until my time as a police officer is done.
Resources are at a premium, that’s no secret. So we all need to work together. We have to work smart and we have to adapt. I really feel we’re heading in the right direction.
The good thing is that technology makes our lives and jobs better and easier to do. The more we’re outside in the communities, that’s much better than always having to come back to the station.
We have a young workforce who are keen which is a good thing to see. If we make mistakes, we realise those mistakes and put them right. It’s all about being transparent and honest about what we’re doing.
We need to tell people about the good things we’re doing. Most of the things you might hear or read are often bad but my officers do some amazing stuff and solve the problems that people come to us with. It’s nice to sometimes have someone who says thank you.
All I want is for my team to give their best, treat everyone as individuals, and be focused in relation to issues concerning the public and the communities we serve.