You have to think on your feet in this job - Pc Craig Porter on being a beat bobby
When he was a boy, Pc Craig Porter wanted to be either a fighter pilot or a police officer. The 38-year-old joined Leicestershire Police in March 2004 and has spent all of his service so far at Mansfield House police station, in Belgrave Gate, in the city centre. He is a member of the New Walk beat team.
"I wouldn't swap what I do now for anything – even the fighter pilot thing" he says.
"As a beat officer, you never know what is going to come around the corner from one day to the next. That's the challenge of what we do and that's why I love the job.
"It's called the New Walk beat, but it's a large area which goes as far as University Road, London Road, past the prison and Regent Road and into the city centre with Belvoir Street and Granby Street.
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"A lot of people pass through the beat in a typical day but we have a lot of people living here, too.
"On any day you might need to be a Good Samaritan, a marriage guidance counsellor or a school welfare officer. We deal with a lot of vulnerable adults, too.
"That's been one of the big changes since neighbourhood policing began. It's not just about fighting crime, although that's obviously a big part of what we do.
"One moment we can be talking to a street drinker with a can of cider in his hand and the next a relatively wealthy person who is here to go to the theatre.
"We have the YMCA on our beat and I've got to know a lot of the young people there by name – and they know me by name, too.
"They would not, as a rule, speak to a police officer, so I'm proud to have broken down some barriers there."
When he first joined the police, he worked as a general response officer, going out on 999 calls.
"Response officers fly from job to job. I loved it but I prefer what I do now.
"I love the interaction with so many different people and trying to solve their problems.
"After two-and-a-half years as a response officer, I moved on to the neighbourhood action team which involved a lot of work in plainclothes, doing drugs warrants and other enforcement work.
"I loved that, too, but that prompted me to want to become a beat officer.
"So, I approached the sergeant who was in charge of the beat teams and said 'I really want to be a beat officer'.
"This has been my life for five years now and I absolutely love it.
"We're never going to be able to solve all of people's problems because some of these situations are very complex.
"But if I can do something to improve things for people even a little bit, and hearing them say 'thank you', is better than nothing at all.
"In some cases, we're trying to get people to change their lives. A lot of the time it's people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, or both.
"There are success stories. People I've dealt with as a police officer who come up to me and say 'I've changed since that day'.
"We issued an Asbo against a young man because of his shoplifting recently and I know he was very upset about it at the time and spat his dummy out of his pram.
"I see him every day and he has not been arrested or had his name put forward for any thefts since that order was granted.
"He is trying to go on the straight and narrow and that was our aim all along.
"These orders are wake-up calls for these people and, in my experience, they work."
Street prostitution has long been associated with parts of the beat and Pc Porter works with a welfare group called New Futures on a one-day course for men caught kerb crawling.
"That's been really interesting. We tell the men the realities of prostitution. In my experience, those men had no idea about the kinds of lives the women were leading.
"The course has only been running for a couple of years, but I think we're getting there.
"The hope is that because of the lack of trade, the women will eventually seek the help they need with their drug addiction or whatever else has put them there."
The New Walk officers patrol their beat on foot or on bicycles and soak up local knowledge as they go.
"I call my boots LPCs – leather personnel carriers," he says.
"People will often say they never see a police officer on the beat. That's not the case here because we are out there and we're really approachable."