Rural crime special report: Visibility key for 'country bobby' of 50 years ago

FOR one retired police inspector, the key to tackling crime on a rural beat is a straightforward one.

Peter Hyde, pictured early in his policing career

“It’s quite simple really,” 85-year-old Peter Hyde told The Yorkshire Post.

“Before, when I was serving, we had country policemen working on beats and they patrolled about and they talked to everybody.

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“I actually once detected a crime without getting out of bed, almost.

“A farmer rang me early in the morning and said he had had the batteries taken off his tractor.

“I asked, was that the tractor he left at the side of the road, and I told him off for not taking my advice and putting it away.”

Mr Hyde said on a hunch, he rang someone who might have information about where the battery might have ended up.

He said: “He gave me a call back with the information about who it was likely to be and when I got up, I went and arrested the thief.

“It was that kind of thing – we had contact with everybody.”

Mr Hyde, of Driffield, East Yorkshire, served as a ‘country bobby’ in the village of Newport near Howden from 1968 to 1971. As a police constable, he would patrol a beat of about 2,000 people across seven or eight villages.

He was one of five country beat bobbies in the area, with four or five more covering the town of Howden.

He and his family lived in a police house in Newport, where telephone calls would come night and day.

“It wasn’t a job, it was a life. Nowadays, it’s a job, but in our day it was a life. My wife was married to the police – she often reminds me of that,” he said.

“In fact, they had two for one. If I wasn’t there, my wife would take a message so they could radio me.”

Mr Hyde said he had noticed a drastic reduction in the number of visible police officers now serving towns and villages and spoke of his concern at the “lack of police being able to have contact with the public”.

“Basically, when I was a country bobby, I had a huge beat and nothing happened that I didn’t know about,” he said.

And he will also dispel any myths that a ‘country beat’ was ever a quiet one.

“I have got memories that you wouldn’t believe. Railway suicides, shootings, hangings, escapades, fatal accidents, all sorts of things. Many memories,” he said.