A COMMUNITY crimefighter who spent more than 40 years serving Hartlepool has retired with a heavy heart.
Colin Hopkins started off catching crooks while working as a bobby on the beat, before trying to stop criminals in their tracks as a crime prevention advisor.
He patrolled the streets of Hartlepool for almost 30 years before taking on a position with Hartlepool New Deal for Communities (NDC).
That saw him play a role in helping to reduce crime in the town centre area through a range of initiatives from alley gates to bike security.
He finished in that role after nine years last month after being kept on with Hartlepool Borough Council when the NDC project finished a year ago.
Colin, 60, who lives in Wynyard, said: “I’m sad to leave as there’s so many people I will miss, and I’ll miss the job.
“I really think we made a difference and a lot changed under the NDC. Perhaps a lot of it wasn’t noticed, but so much went on.
“There have been so many changes over the years. I remember the old police boxes and that sort of thing when I started in the 1970s.
“When I joined the police, nobody shared information. That to me is the biggest change. Everyone works together now.
“There have been huge strides made in Hartlepool, and I am proud to have been a part of that.”
Colin, who is dad to Rebecca, 28, and is married to former police officer Chris, 54, joined the force at 19 after working in a car garage in Stockton.
He said: “I was by the side of the road under a vehicle in the pouring rain and thought ‘I want a career’.
“I always liked helping people, and thought the police would be perfect.”
He was only part of the Cleveland force for two years before he headed off to police in Bermuda for 12 months.
On his return, he rejoined Cleveland and was posted to Hartlepool, where he spent the next 32 years as a PC.
He became the crime prevention officer for the town but was soon leaving the force to take on a new challenge when the Government announced the New Deal for Communities project, which saw £50m invested into improving the community.
Colin, who was based at the Community Safety Office in Park Road, says playing a role in the massive reduction in burglaries in Hartlepool has been his proudest achievement.
The decade that the NDC scheme ran for saw burglaries per 1,000 dwellings fall from 81 in the project’s area to just 15.
Overall crime dropped from 239 per 1,000 population to 132.
“The number of burglaries were unbelievable,” said Colin. “There were big figures.
“But in my time I have seen it drop dramatically as all the partners have worked together.
“Now it’s all about the fear of crime, trying to make people feel safe.”
He has played a part in rolling out alley gates to keep the rear of homes secure, carried out hundreds of home visits to see victims or those vulnerable to criminals and held countless advice sessions.
He said: “I have worked with victims all my life. To see crime scenes and the chidren, parents and grandparents in them is awful and you can’t help but feel for them. It’s always been my aim to stop scenes like that happening.
“I remember everyone wanted an alley gate and we fitted loads of locks and changed doors. People could go to bed without worrying.
“One of the things that stands out is talking to an elderly resident in the back of Oxford Road and she said it was great putting the washing out and feeling safe. It’s a great feeling when you hear things like that.
“That’s what it has all been about – the people.”