Red Rangers are on hand to help make Rugby better

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THEY are the eyes and ears of our town, everyone knows who they are and they work tirelessly to make Rugby a nice place to be.

Reporter Alice Dyer and photographer Mike Baker spent the morning clocking up a few miles with a Rugby Ranger.

“I ENJOY putting something back into the town”, says Robert Hallam - a ranger who started the role when Rugby First was first set up six years ago.

As we set off with Rob from the Rugby First base on a chilly Friday morning, we knew we were in safe hands with him and his six other colleagues who spend their days patrolling the town.

The ranger service is one of many offered Rugby First, which are all funded by hundreds of businesses in the town.

The team patrol the town centre from 8am until 6pm six days a week and often help tackle problems with antisocial behaviour, spot criminal targets, assist businesses to tackle crime and help the public with first aid and lost children.

Their distinctive red uniforms make them highly visible and their presence means there has been a reduction in crime, as well as working with CCTV operators and police to spot potential criminal activity.

Based in the Rugby First base is a state-of-the-art CCTV control room which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week covering dozens of cameras across the town centre. Rangers are linked to a radio system back to the control room and they work together throughout the day.

As well as the radio, Rob and the other rangers have a personal digital assistant (PDA) computer, first aid kit and a list of 12 businesses they each must visit that day.

Rob said: “The best thing about the job is making a difference to the people and businesses and putting something back into the town. It’s very rewarding.

“I’ve been involved for six years since it started and I’ve seen it get significantly better.

“After six years experience I’m more street-wise and I’m aware if the local element in and out of town. That all comes with experience.”

We begin our patrol with Rob into the heart of the town centre and all the time the senior ranger is on the look out for criminal damage and cleaning issues that may need addressing from overnight.

We pop into Salters in High Street which is one of the businesses on Rob’s list of places to visit that day. There are 160 radios across the town which are linked to Rugby First which means shop workers can report any problems as and when they arise.

Andrew Salter, owner of Salters in High Street, said: “I think it’s wonderful. The town is so much cleaner and it’s a great investment for the town.”

“Any problems then you’ve not sat here on your own. It’s worked for me.”

Control radio through to Rob to ask him to go to North Street where he reported a dangerous paving slab the day before. On route we spot another dangerous slab which is reported and he’s glad to see the one on the other side of the road from yesterday has already been fixed.

Every move that Rob and the other rangers make must be logged on their PDA systems including the businesses visits and any reported problems.

Whilst in North Street we meet another ranger Karen Wyer, who is chatting to a woman with a parrot on her shoulder.

Karen, who has been a ranger for more than four years, said: “It would surprise you the people we meet. I worked for the NHS for 10 years before this job so it was a complete career change but still dealing with the public. It’s brilliant.”

We make our way back towards Market Place where the market is on and it’s packed with people. Everywhere we walk with Rob people are saying hello to him and shaking his hand - he’s well known and well liked by the looks of it.

Rob says we need to go to Marks and Spencer to look for shoplifters due to the fact there is a meal deal on and lots of expensive meat and drink will be filling the shelves.

On the way we spot a broken sign and some graffiti at the back of McDonald’s which is immediately reported to the cleaning team who deal with such matters as well as picking up litter and chewing gum.

Everything looks fine in Marks and Spencer so we head into High Street when Rob is asked to check if a faulty traffic light he reported the day before has been fixed in Lawrence Sheriff Street. It hasn’t so another report is logged, as well as a quick radio to the cleaning team again to attend to a pile of vomit.

Rob said: “It’s a very really well run service. We’re very lucky. Businesses are paying for it and they want to know what they are paying for. We’re very aware they want to see what they are getting for their money.

“It’s a privilege to be involved with the scheme. It was my wife that persuaded me to apply and I was fortunate to be selected. You’ve got to be a people person.”

On our way down High Street Rob speaks to a team of charity street collectors and he informs them about where they can and can’t stop shoppers due to it being a market day. The team, who were working on behalf of a national charity, were rude to the Advertiser but Rob remains polite and courteous at all times whilst dealing with them.

Luckily the street collectors are the only rude people we came across that day and shortly afterwards a friendly tourist approaches Rob to ask where he can post a letter. Rob says he’ll personally escort him to the post box - all part of the service, apparently.

Rob cheerfully says: “It’s surprising what we deal with. We’ve even got bus timetables in our pockets just in case people need them.

“You get to know so many people in town and we help a lot of tourists. There’s so many nice people in Rugby.”

Control radio Rob saying that a car has broken down in Corporation Street and they want him to assist so we make a quick dash over there to find a man with his hazard lights on in the far lane opposite Asda.

Rob crosses the busy road and asks the man if he needs any help. He declines but at least Rob has tried to help.

Back in the precinct Rob follows a well known shoplifter into a store in High Street to keep an eye on him and the shop assistant seems grateful.

Michael O’Connor, who runs J. Parriss Jewellery in Regent Street, said: “Prior to Rugby First when we had people steal from us we rarely used to catch the culprit. Since Rugby First came in we’ve had two attempted thefts in six years. So not only has the number of attempts gone down but in both cases the culprits were caught. That’s tremendous.”

It’s lunchtime and town is getting even busier so Rob goes around to check the cashpoints in his designated zone to see if they have been tampered with at all but luckily they all seem ok.

With that we leave Rob to it. It’s been a busy morning but that’s nothing in comparison to what Rob and the rangers do on a weekly basis during which time they can cover up to 75 miles around the town.

In comparison to the day before when Rob was involved in dealing with a violent incident in Albert Street, our morning with him may have sounded tame. However every small thing that was dealt with goes a long way to making our town a nice, clean and safe environment for everyone who lives, works and visits.

The rangers are a huge asset to the town and everyone should appreciate their presence knowing that if you had a problem with anything - however big or small - they would be there to help within a flash. They are worth their weight in gold.