A police community support officer has spoken movingly about how he was inspired to work with young people after his nephew died of a crack cocaine overdose.
Chris Perkins revealed the heartbreaking family tragedy that drove him on when he met Ann Griffith, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, during her visit to Llandudno.
The father-of-four was recently honoured as North Wales Police’s police community support officer of the year and was presented with the award by Ms Griffith.
At the ceremony she promised to join Chris on the beat to find out more about the role of PCSOs and was fulfilling her pledge when she went with him on patrol.
Chris served as a police officer for 30 years – initially with Greater Manchester Police before transferring to North Wales Police in 1991 – and retired in 2010.
After working setting up his own videography business and later working as a school liaison officer at Eirias High School in Colwyn Bay, Chris returned to uniform in 2013 – but this time as a PCSO.
He said: “My nephew Stephen died from a crack cocaine overdose at the age of just 23 so the issue of young people and drugs is close to my heart. It has been a driving force in my life
“I was honoured as the community police officer of the year in 2000 which I’m very proud of, and that was for my with work with young people which was all linked back to Stephen and the way that he’d died,
“Sadly, Stephen was alone when he was found dead on the streets of London in 1998. It broke my heart and still does upset me to this day.
“His death was a waste and it was only afterwards that I found out he had two daughters- and I’m glad to say one of them, Avril, is now a friend of mine on Facebook.
“It’s amazing how a child who has had such diversity in her life has turned into a beautiful young woman, and that for me is the issue.
“We have to nurture youngsters to make the right choice. You can’t make them do that, you can only inform them and hopefully they’ll make the right choice.
“If I can help a young person do that then it gives me great inner happiness, and that’s why I’m very keen to work with young people. I’ve been a scout leader and I’m now a cadet leader.”
According to Chris, his work as PCSO gave him immense job satisfaction.
He added: We have a different role to the police officers but we’re equal. We’re a team.
“PCSOs are the eyes and ears of modern day policing and we have a really valuable role within the police service. We are the intelligence gatherers.
“We are the uniformed presence on the streets and we are the people that the public want to engage with.
“It’s the gratifying to know you’ve touched somebody’s life at a time when they’ve been low and you’ve helped them in a time of trouble and they remember those things for a long time.”
The deputy commissioner described Chris as an “inspirational figure”.
She said: “Chris is hugely experienced, very motivated and his love of the job shines through.
“The response that he’s getting from people here on the street in Llandudno today is very positive.
“Obviously people know him, children, young people, and people of all ages are turning to him and chatting and saying hello.
“I also saw Chris in action when an elderly gentleman fell on the street. He just showed me very quickly really how priceless it was to have him there on the spot.
“Chris was able to settle the gentleman down and ensure that he was unhurt. He chatted with him and gave him back some confidence really because the elderly gentleman was quite shaken.
“Having been out on the beat with Chris it’s easy to see how he won the award for PCSO of the year
“To most people these days people like Chris are the face of North Wales Police. They are a reassuring presence.”