Police Constable Baaqir Irfan joined Lancashire Constabulary in 2021 via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme. In his role as a neighbourhood police officer, he has significantly reduced anti-social behaviour (ASB) in Accrington and is using his language skills to build stronger community relations.
The Hyndburn South Neighbourhood Policing Team were receiving increased reports of ASB, with one group in particular coming to police attention on a regular basis. The team received reports that the group were vandalising property including bus shelters, smashing vehicle windows, and damaging equipment at a local cricket club. Local businesses also reported that they were causing problems at their premises and harassing customers. In one incident, the group smashed the window of a local takeaway before hurling racial abuse at the owner. Members of the community were becoming more and more worried and one elderly woman confessed she was often too scared to leave her home.
Baaqir, with the help of his colleagues and local Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), quickly identified the offenders, issued formal warnings, and increased patrols around ASB hotspots. He also delivered presentations at a local secondary school about the consequences of ASB and conducted home visits to talk with the offenders’ parents and better understand their personal circumstances, so that further intervention and support plans could be put in place alongside partner agencies.
From 1st October to 31st December 2022 reported incidents of ASB reduced by 58% thanks to Baaqir and his colleagues on the Neighbourhood Policing Team. Of the group who had been increasingly coming to police attention, none have been reported to the police since. The owner of the vandalised takeaway received a full reimbursement for the damage from the offenders’ parents as well as a sincere written apology from one of the individuals involved. Other local businesses have also reported a noticeable drop in ASB.
A resident from Accrington said: “It was nice to see so many officers out including the mounted horses – it feels reassuring and comforting after the recent events that have occurred knowing the police have responded in a positive and effective manner.”
PC Baaqir Irfan, who studied Economics and Financial Analysis at Manchester Metropolitan University before joining Police Now’s programme, said: “Supporting the local community is at the heart of what it is to be a neighbourhood police officer. Whether it’s through reducing ASB, helping vulnerable members of the community or responding to serious crime, every day we aim to make Accrington a safer and better place to live.
“One of the skills I bring to the neighbourhood policing team is my ability to speak Urdu and Punjabi. Speaking to someone in their mother-tongue can really help to build bridges and facilitate better communication, particularly when the individual doesn’t feel confident speaking English. Only recently whilst on shift, I was able to talk in Urdu with a couple who had recently moved to the UK, describing my role as a neighbourhood officer and explaining that we’re here to help. They were surprised to hear me speak in Urdu and told me how friendly and welcoming they had found the police to be!
“As part of my role, I regularly visit the local mosque to hear the concerns of the Imams and worshippers, answer their questions, gather intel, and occasionally deliver presentations. On one recent visit, I bumped into one of the victims of ASB, a taxi driver who had his window smashed and who was understandably shocked by the incident. Through our conversation, I was able to reassure him that the ASB was being addressed and listened to other concerns he wanted to raise. Moments like these, where you can see the positive difference you’re making on someone’s life, including building their confidence in the police, are some of the most rewarding.
“Joining Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme has been a fantastic career step, providing me with the opportunity to make a tangible impact in people’s lives and develop as a leader. For anyone considering going for it, I couldn’t recommend it more.”