Frontline police officers in Blackpool have been giving residents a brief glimpse of life in one of the resort’s most unpredictable jobs.
For the past week, one of the Fylde coast’s five immediate response teams have been using social media to give the public a flavour of what they have to deal with every single day.
When the 25 officers clocked on on Wednesday morning it was the start of a 60-hour week of six shifts – days and nights – without a rest day.
As well as dozens of call-outs, the officers made 28 arrests for everything from traffic offences and drunken behaviour to serious sexual offences.
And that is just in Blackpool.
For ease, the team focused their social media takeover on their work in the resort – but in reality they cover the force’s West division, which includes the Fylde coast, and further up the coast at Morecambe and Lancaster.
While on duty, officers used the hashtag #team3takeover to highlight some of the incidents they deal with on a day-to-day basis,
PC Matt Walters, who co-ordinated the takeover, said: “We were probably only putting up details of 25 or 30 per cent of the things we were dealing with.
“We had a few road traffic incidents, someone arrested for a serious sexual assault – we tried to get a range of the stuff we were dealing with.
“The week seems to have gone really well.
“It would appear most people want us to do another similar event.”
The force’s posts on social media grew in popularity as the week went on, with dozens of people leaving comments thanking officers for their work.
PC Walters said by the time they clocked off on Tuesday morning, to start a four-day rest period, the various police accounts had seen their number of followers soar by almost 1,000 since the takeover.
As well as helping the public better understand the challenges facing the police, he added, it highlights the power of social media as a tool to help police.
Over the weekend, officers used Facebook and Twitter to appeal for help to find a vulnerable 13-year-old who had gone missing in the resort.
“Within an hour it had been shared more than 50 times,” he said.
“Around 130,000 people on Facebook have seen that post.
“It just goes to show with something like that – a young, vulnerable girl who is missing – it is really useful to get the message out to a wide range of people quickly.”
Around 36 hours after she disappeared, the girl was found in the town centre by police and returned home.
And PC Walters said their posts were also a catalyst for debate about the role of police.
One update, about a boy made to apologise to a shopkeeper after he was caught stealing a Pot Noodle, sparked a wide range of views.
Sarah Williams posted: “If someone is in that much need for food the police should assist them.”
In response, police assured concerned residents the boy was not stealing because he was starving, and shared a picture of their work supporting a local foodbank with donations from their officers.
John Richardson wrote: “I think it’s great that both the police and the shopkeeper were so considerate and both acted sensibly well done to all concerned.”
And some thought the punishment did not go far enough, with Dean Stealing posting: “It is stealing, simple. It’s not the value it’s the act. We need to be hard on thieves.”
PC Walters added: “It was very interesting to watch, seeing the different viewpoints.”
The success of the social media takeover now has him hopeful the force will plan another before long and he said he hopes it will give other departments a chance to highlight the work they do.
As for the immediate response officers, he said he hopes people now have a better understanding of the job.
“Not many days are the same,” he added.
“And it’s important to remember, we are only one of five teams in Blackpool.
“That type of stuff is going on 24/7 and when we go home everyone will be dealing with the same stuff again.”