They may be gone but their work on Grantham’s Earlesfield estate will never be forgotten.
It is the end of an era as the best examples of community policing – and there’s a host of awards to prove it – retire from Lincolnshire Police.
And although they are sad to be leaving their colleagues behind, the results of hefty budget cuts and frustrating politics at management level will not be missed.
Stuart McBride, 66, retired as a police community support officer (PCSO) in June, and he is followed by Pc Steve Cummings, 57, who hands over his handcuffs at the end of the month.
There are very few people on the Earlesfield estate who don’t know the dynamic duo. When they went on the beat back in 2003 tasked with transforming the estate, it was a much darker place. Smashed windows, graffiti and burnt fences were everywhere, while anti-social behaviour was at its worst.
Steve said: “There was an awful lot of violence on the estate. Costcutter was set on fire, staff had to close up at 5pm because they were having apples thrown at them. A security guard was lured away and beaten up, cop cars were being attacked. We were told to sort it out.”
Joined by a couple of colleagues who have since moved on, they began by taking simple steps – cutting down a crab apple tree, removing a disused bus stop and replacing it with a shelter beneath a CCTV camera, were among them. Ring-leaders were taken out of the equation by receiving ASBOs, leaving their gangs to fade away.
And then the policing team took a pioneering approach in introducing diversionary tactics, which worked wonders and reduced anti-social behaviour by more than 70 per cent between 2006 and 2009.
They put on football and dancing sessions, held parties at Christmas and Halloween, organised sports days and worked hard to engage with youths, even befriend them.
And these schemes turned the estate around and had a huge impact on crime. Gaining the trust of youngsters and their parents led to the sharing of information, which led to arrests.
Reminiscing, Steve said: “So many of the kids on the estate had nothing to do, or couldn’t afford to go to leisure centres and things like that.
“We went around local businesses and asked for money, and got money from the police and council, and every year there was a range of activities for the kids.
“We got overwhelming support, from as little as a fiver to £300-£400 from various organisations. It wasn’t about rewarding bad kids, it was about giving them a chance.”
Stuart, who joined the force as a PCSO in 2003 as one of the first three PCSOs to be taken on in Lincolnshire, is looking forward to a spot of DIY around the home, keeping his allotment tidy and spending more time away in the caravan.
On leaving the Royal Navy, Steve joined the force in 1987 and accepted the role of community beat officer on the Earlesfield estate in 2002.
He is not only retiring, but also moving to Ramsgate, Kent, and getting married to his girlfriend Maggie this summer, with Stuart as his best man.
Steve said: “It’s a fresh start and I’m looking forward to it.”
*For the full feature see inside today’s Journal.