IT STARTS with a distinct beep in a police officer's walkie talkie and ear piece, and they have no idea what’s coming next.

An officer could be responding to a burglary, a serious assault, or an unexplained death.

The day of a police officer can change in a ‘nanosecond’ but they exert a sense of calm, despite the fear of the unknown, to members of the public across Oxford in their hour of need.

It’s the sheer unpredictability of what each day might bring that the team simultaneously loves and fears about the job, according to officers who invited the Oxford Mail to spend the day with them last week.

Sergeant Neil Bouse oversees the East Oxford neighbourhood team which is made up of seven police community support officers (PCSOs) and two police constables (PCs), including Pete Grantham.

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“It’s the main thing that attracts people to the job, because no two jobs are the same, you never know what you’re going to be dealing with.” PC Grantham admits.

“The scariest thing is not knowing how a situation could develop. Things aren’t always as they seem. It can go mental in a nanosecond.”

He went on: “If you’re working at night, as you can expect there will be more assaults. In East Oxford you get a lot of drug taking and selling, so that pops up a lot. So, we look at that because it’s a neighbourhood issue.”

The neighbourhood team’s role is to work in the community to fix long-term issues, to safeguard the vulnerable and to protect residents.

This team is based in a small office, tucked away in an un-signposted room under a block of flats in the suburb.

Unlike other neighbourhood teams in Oxford, their no-frills office isn’t open to members of the public but instead works solely as a base for the officers to springboard their days from.

Combined, the team in this room have been at the helm for decades and have been first on the scene to murders, discoveries of bodies and community issues.

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But their role is not always appreciated: "There’s a big proportion of people who have absolutely no respect for work police do and do not like the police," PC Grantham explained.

“I’ve had stitches and I’ve been punched in the face, I’ve gone to chase after offenders and somebody’s given me an ankle tap so I’ve hit the deck. This is the great British public, or at least some of them.”

Sgt Bouse added: “I’ve been kicked at, spat at. I shouldn’t be assaulted for doing my job. And because the penalties don’t fit the crime, where’s the deterrent? Where’s the consequence for doing what you’re doing?”

From May 2018 to April 2019 in Oxford Central, just under 12 per cent of crimes reported to Thames Valley Police saw an offender dealt with by police or sent to court and punished there.

Another part of the team’s role is to engage with the community to minimise crime figures.

To do that, they work with different Oxford-based organisations, including the charity Homeless Oxfordshire.

They have monthly meetings about residents who live in homes run by the charity – with the view of keeping them off the streets, but also keeping the community safe.

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In the afternoon they congregated at Cowley Police Station, where the team’s day had begun five hours before at 7am. Immigration officers dressed undercover in jeans, hoodies, matching boots and bullet proof vests had summoned a briefing with police about the jobs they had lined up for the day - namely raids checking for illegal workers in Templars Square and other locations.

The job of the police was to guard the exits in a bid to stop any suspects making a dash through the back doors.

"How will you know who the suspects are?" "They will run," officers explained.

With the plans in place, the huddle in the HQ dispersed into cars and vans, driving in convoy for the five-minute journey down the back roads towards Templars Square.

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Immigration checks are a lengthy process, involving waiting and questioning the suspect and getting documentation which proves they have the right to work in the UK.

"But it’s important," the police sergeant guarding the doors explained. “With the right to work comes protection and other human rights.”

At the shopping centre, two men were arrested and taken to Abingdon – Oxford’s only custody suite.

Employers who hire an illegal worker can face a five-year jail term and be handed an unlimited fine.

For a prosecution to go ahead, it must be proved that an employer had reasonable cause to believe the person did not have the right to work in the UK, for example knowing that the papers are fake.

A successful immigration raid is not an unusual occurrence, the squad explains, before heading to two other locations just a stone's throw from the neighbourhood team's base.

It’s a lengthy process, waiting for documentation’s and asking the right questions – but, once it’s all over there’s still time to make checks around Cowley .

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At St Mary’s and John Church officers point out purposely ripped up headstones and products of anti-social behaviour – a major problem for the church and the police.

Their shift officially ends at 4pm, so after three immigration raids, a meeting with homeless Oxfordshire, a visit to an ongoing neighbour dispute and a whip around the ward, they call it a day.

“People watch TV shows and they think it’s like that.” Sgt Bouse adds. "Every day is different but most days aren’t far from what we’ve just done."