Dion dabbles with ducks in bid to cut canal-side crimes
THE long arm of the oar was in action when a member of Tiverton's police force swapped his beat for a boat.
PCSO Dion Howells, beat manager for Tiverton town centre, opted for an unusual approach to engaging with the public last week when he took to a canoe and paddled it along the Grand Western Canal.
On a warm sunny afternoon last Thursday, PCSO Howells set off from the canal basin and travelled to Manley Bridge before turning back and heading home.
He said: "It was very good, I must have spoken to 100 to 150 people. It was a chance to interact with people using the canal which you might not normally get a chance to do in the town centre."
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He said he had also become the focus of attention for anglers, people in hire boats and pleasure trippers travelling on the horse-drawn barge. He said: "I left around the same time the barge did and when I came back, all the barge passengers were taking photographs."
The novel idea was not just an excuse for a fun day out on the canal, as PCSO Howells explained: "In recent weeks, we have had a number of reports of car crime in and around the canal car parks, so this was a good chance to speak to a lot of the people who use the canal footpath in a way that would be memorable."
PCSO Howells said although using water transport to meet the public may have surprised a few people at first, he was keen to repeat the exercise again. He said community officers would also be using bicycles in the coming weeks to cycle along the canal and carry out highly visible patrols.
PCSO Howells became one of the first community support officers in Mid Devon when he joined the force 10 years ago and has received awards for his commitment to the role.
Three years ago, he was nominated in the Community Support Officer of the Year category at a prestigious national police award and last month he was given a Local Police Authority (LPA) Commanders Certificate along with two other officers. They were honoured for their role in saving a man's life after he collapsed at the wheel of his car following a cardiac arrest.
Dion was off duty and on his way back from an Exeter Chiefs rugby match when he assisted in administering CPR to the man, who is making a full recovery.
Always alert to potential danger, PCSO Howells said he had thankfully managed to avoid any nasty confrontations with territorial swans during his canal adventure.