FROM standing guard at a gruesome crime scene to supporting grieving families, the work of a PCSO is both vital and varied. Police Community Support Officer Sam Stephenson – who describes herself as part of the furniture on her Spennymoor patch – is regularly called out to deal with frontline policing, but her real passion lies in the community.

She says: “The good thing about this job is, yes you have to deal with the day to day jobs, but I love the community side. I love working with children and doing things with the local schools.

“It’s really rewarding when you walk down the street and the children remember you and will chat to you.”

Within minutes of clocking on for a ten-hour shift, she is out walking the beat to catch up with the residents and businesses who look to her for support.

Everywhere she goes, the Sam is stopped in her tracks by people keen to chat about neighbourhood issues from fly tipping to underage drinking.

Her first call sees her team up with a community officer from housing provider Livin, inspecting gardens for rubbish. The tenants are delighted to see her and greet her like an old friend, inviting her into their homes for a cuppa.

The former fitness instructor started working as a PCSO almost a decade ago when an officer – one of many she talked to at Aykley Heads Sports Centre – convinced her to join Durham Constabulary.

Nine years later, Sam has taken on a new challenge to help keep the public safe. After specialist training, she is now keeping tabs on low risk sex offenders to ensure they are complying with conditions imposed by the courts.

The Northern Echo:

PCSO Sam Stephenson talking to pupils from North Park Primary School in Spennymoor 

Inspector Warren Edwards from Spennymoor Neighbourhood Policing team says her role is an important one. “PCSOs are the direct link to the community," he says. “As a boss it’s great to see the passion Sam and our other officers have because it makes such a difference.”

Following the inspections, the next challenge of the day sees Sam rescue a runaway buggy in Spennymoor town centre.

AS darkness falls, she and the rest of the beat team take part in operation Stay Safe, an initiative created in response to problems with youths causing anti-social behaviour and drinking alcohol.

Sam takes off in the police car after reports come in about youths drinking in a wooded area of the town. A couple of youngsters are found drinking by an open fire.

A girl is very distressed after being told she will be taken to a place of safety and her parents will be informed.

Children’s charities and partner agencies step in to give support to the girl and help her deal with underlying issues.

Again, the Sam is the friendly face that reassures the girl and takes her home where she could be comforted by her parents.

Sam says: “I’ve learnt over the years you’ve got to be able to listen to the kids because it’s a huge thing just to be heard.”

This is an ethos she regularly takes into schools where she talks to pupils about things like bullying and safeguarding.

She also provides a listening ear and signposts people to advice and other agencies in welfare visits to vulnerable people.

After the operation, in some rare down time, Sam speaks about a time earlier this year when she and another PCSO received a call about six youths drinking in the woods.

When they got there, they were confronted by 60 youths under the influence.

Sam says: “That night was particularly bad. My colleague was spat on, so we followed the group. There was about six or seven of them we got a hold of.

"We were holding one of the lads down, but his friend slammed a bike into me over and over again and even threw a plank of wood at my head.

“All I could think of was, we’re not going to let them get away with this as they caused a lot of problems in the community.”

Another story Sam recalls relates to one of her most peculiar nights on the job. A horse’s head had been found in the woods in Spennymoor and she had to stand guard over the gruesome find, waiting for crime scene investigators.

After two hours in the cold next two a horse’s head, she was relieved when the only duty asked of her was to drive it to Darlington for forensic examination – definitely an example of the varied jobs that come her way.