The Bridge Interviews
PCSO Darryn Moulding
This month’s interviewee is someone who many readers will have seen around and quite a few will have spoken to you. Few may have an idea of all he does to support the community.
Police Community Support Officer Darryn Moulding has for the last nine years been involved in maintaining law and order on the mean streets of Burford and its surrounding villages. Part of his job is maintaining a visible police presence around our area but a lot of it also involves working away quietly helping people in a variety of ways.
More on that shortly, but first his background. He grew up in Worthing, the only child of a fireman and a social care worker. He left school at 16. “At that time there was not much advice about careers. It was assumed that you would either go to college or enter a trade. I wanted to start earning and get some responsibility and see where things would go from there.” His first job was as a porter with Timothy Whites (see sidebar). He had been in the Air Cadets for many years and his ambition was to join the RAF. His first attempt was unsuccessful, and he was advised to reapply in a year or so. By that time life had moved on for him. “I had earned some money, had a relationship and wanted to move from home, so I put it on hold”. He stayed in retail at supervisor and then manager level and eventually became an area manager with Marley Home Care, a DIY chain, managing a set of stores.
Then came a big decision. Feeling that this line of work was not fulfilling enough, he left. “I took a break, lived in Spain for a year and gathered my thoughts.” He decided he was more suited to an outdoor job. He is clearly a man who loves fresh air. A new type of career was opening up and he joined Arun District Council in West Sussex as a community warden. “The job involved going around speaking to members of the community and dealing with more routine social problems like graffiti, broken windows and people hanging around. It gave me a sense of responsibility and fulfilment to the community by being able to find problems, solve them and get a result".
Then the police saw how this service was working in various places and the government decided to put money into the police service to provide Police Community Support Officers. It was therefore a natural move for Darryn to transfer into this new role. However there were no vacancies in Sussex so he applied to and was accepted by Thames Valley Police (TVP).
By this time Darryn was married to Sadie. “She was a community warden in Berkshire. We met at a conference for community wardens.” They moved to a village near Swindon. Sadie now works as a community resilience worker with Swindon Borough Council. During the pandemic she has been undertaking such tasks as helping with food and prescription deliveries for vulnerable people. They have a daughter, Merryn, who is seven. “She is my absolute apple”. Every year she has stood by his side at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Burford war memorial, but sadly that will not be taking place this year.
On joining TVP Darryn was given eight weeks of training followed by three months of mentoring with a senior officer. He was then assigned to duties in our area, replacing another PCSO who had gone on to becoming a constable. The first challenge was to get to know leading members of the community - the mayor, parish councillors, head teachers, business owners and landowners - letting them know how he could help them. Then he gradually met other members of the community. “It took five or six years to develop those relationships and build up a bank of names and numbers so that I can go to them or they can contact me.” Although the town and villages are close communities, he is conscious that some people live in very isolated spots. It may be reassuring for them to see him around, and he can give them advice about security. “I might be the only person they have spoken to that day or that week.” He also supports his police colleagues dealing with such matters as anti-social behaviour, traffic collisions and missing persons and follows up with victims. He is part of a team of four based in Carterton which covers Carterton, Bampton, Burford and adjacent villages. They have a rolling shift system under which he works in the daytime some days and in the evening on others, sometimes until midnight. He has recently mentored a new PCSO who is now working in Witney.
He reckons to spend 70-80% of his time out and about and that clearly suits him well. What he does can be very flexible, and can include meeting victims of crime, carrying out welfare checks on the vulnerable or elderly, holding “have your say” meetings with the public or simply talking to people and giving advice. Since the outbreak of the pandemic meetings have not been possible so he now communicates mainly via email alerts (you can sign up at https://www.thamesvalleyalert.co.uk), Facebook and Twitter. He knows that there are some people who do not use social media or even have internet access but he has a network of contacts who will pass the word to neighbours where necessary.
Is crime a problem in this area? “Statistically this is a very low crime area but there is always a surge at this time of year as the nights grow longer - burglaries, criminal damage, theft, cold callers. Peddling from door to door is a dying trade as householders do not trust unexpected callers. Often they have minor criminal records and are recruited by gangs.” He gives as an example oil thefts where he can visit victims, come up with a plan to help them and provide a reassuring presence. Providing this is part of what he calls his “high visibility” role, being seen around so that anyone up to mischief will know that there is a police presence. He travels around by car but will stop in a village and walk around for half an hour or so. He points out that criminals may want to observe a target before committing a crime and that, if they are “observed while observing”, this may deter them. This is important in villages where there are many second homes and there may be few people around during the week. If he speaks to someone, that person will know that they have been noticed and that their face may be remembered. For that reason his advice to shopkeepers facing problems with shoplifting is to greet customers who come into their shops and talk to them.
Another example he gives is of an occasion when he was in the Guildenford car park one afternoon and saw someone with a car and felt, purely by instinct, that they were suspicious. He called his control room to get details of the vehicle and at that point it started to move off. His police colleagues were alerted, they followed the vehicle and intercepted the car at Brize Norton. All the occupants in the car were arrested and were charged with various crimes, most seriously drugs offences. “Being on the ground helps. That probably helped prevent a crime from taking place in Burford.”
Has he ever felt in danger? “Quite a few times. I have been threatened, spat at, shouted at and pushed. Once someone tried to run me over”. Clearly there are some around who do not like a friendly word from the law.
What difference has the pandemic made to his job? “There have been massive changes, without a shadow of a doubt.” The rules and guidance have changed regularly and can be confusing. Officers have to deal with the public, explain things and give guidance and advice. “We can’t go into every shop, pub and home. We have to rely on businesses to follow good practice and on the public to follow the guidelines and look after the safety of themselves and others. Some don’t comply and we have to encourage them to stick to the guidance.” He sees the police as having very much an educative role. He may have to ask people to apply social distancing, or if he sees eight people out together he will tell them that two of them must leave if this number falls outside of the guidance. “If absolutely necessary the last resort is to impose a fine for breaking the rules.” He hasn’t had to do that himself.
In 2018 Darryn was nominated for and awarded a High Sheriff Award. These are given to a small and select group in recognition of having made an outstanding contribution to the communities in which they live and work. The award criteria refer to those who “have had a high impact on the lives of others over a sustained period of time” and are seen to have been “inspirational and as setting an example for others to follow.” The award was presented by the High Sheriff at a ceremony in Oxford. It was summed up by saying that he had “gone the extra mile”.
How does he relax when not on duty? “I run and take part in middle distance events such as 10k and keep fit. (Is this an example of going the extra mile?) I do taekwondo with my daughter. We practice at home and at a club.” He is also a metal detectorist. “I am a history geek.” So far his finds have included some 16th century hammered coins and a pendant that was identified as having belonged to one of the earls of Oxford. He hasn’t yet found a hoard of gold but is still hoping. As we said, this is a man who likes the outdoors. No need to take vitamin D supplements here.
He is clearly very happy in his work. “The job is very much what you make of it. You have to put your heart and soul into it. It has everything. I get to meet people and go out in all weathers. No two days are the same. I am allowed to develop the job as I see fit. If I see a niche that needs filling, I can fill it. Some people don’t contact us as they think we have better things to do. We don’t, as you are the ones we should be helping, for instance domestic violence victims who are too scared to speak out. I want to make a difference, however small. If I can make a difference I would like to be the person who makes it. ” With that he sprang into his squad car and raced off with a squeal of brakes and blue lights flashing. No, not exactly. Obviously that is not what modern policing is about. But in his quiet and patient way Darryn has clearly made, and continues to make, a huge difference to our community.
Older readers will remember this chain of stores which sold pharmaceuticals and housewares. It was bought by Boots and later was absorbed by them. Fans of Dad’s Army will know that with his Lewis gun Captain Mainwaring could command a field of fire “from Timothy Whites all the way to the Novelty Rock Emporium.