Many may think that a day in the life of a police officer is like cops and robbers, but in reality it is far more about prevention and protection.
Across the north-east division, there are many units set up targeting specific crimes such as domestic violence and road safety.
But one of the busiest units is the divisional alcohol violence reduction unit, which works to keep Aberdeen city centre’s streets safe – particularly at the weekends.
The unit investigates reports of disorder and violence, supports community policing teams with serious inquiries and uses resources to arrest and charge offenders.
A large part of the role is preventing alcohol related violence by working with licensed traders to reduce incidents within premises and identify vulnerable intoxicated people who do not realise the impact their actions could have.
Gathered at Queen Street HQ on a Saturday night, the team is briefed on the day’s events and assigned their various roles.
For Sergeant Andy Sawers, his night starts off by dropping in past the 65-cell custody suite at Kittybrewster.
The multi-million-pound facility opened in 2014, which has interview and solicitor consultation rooms and medical facilities, is the central custody facility for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
“People can spend up to four days in here,” he said.
“It’s noisy on a busy weekend or on bank holidays. There’s also those withdrawing from drugs not getting what they want who make it clear they want medication from health care professionals.”
But he admitted that sometimes, the busier the better – particularly if a young person is arriving at the facility for the first time.
“It can be a sobering thing,” he said.
“They’re seeing this and it’s terrifying for them and that could deter them from doing anything again.”
As we head into the city centre to go on patrol, Sgt Sawers asks his officers to halt the van to check on a young man in a doorway.
After 20 years in the force, Sgt Sawers is aware of the dangers vulnerable people may face and is keen to ensure this man does not become the target of trouble.
He said: “If anyone single, female or male, is sitting there themselves they might have tucked themselves away but they’re still vulnerable to crime.
“If we can take them from there then we can potentially stop them being victims of a crime.
“We have to nip everything in the bud immediately.
“Everywhere in Aberdeen city centre is covered by CCTV. It’s about protecting people and the officers.
“In the shire you don’t have that coverage, so it’s reassuring to know that someone has your back and you’re being watched.”
Out on the street, Sgt Sawers checks in with the various teams to find out what has been happening across town.
Aberdeen was last year awarded its fifth purple flag for safety in the city centre – the result of collaborative working with many organisations, including pubs, clubs, the council, taxi wardens and the Street Pastors.
The Street Pastors bus is a familiar sight on Belmont Street, and the team are available to listen, help, order taxis or provide sleeping bags, blankets, winter woolies to the volunteers – even handing out flipflops to women with sore feet at the end of a night.
Volunteers also position themselves around the city centre and work to the slogan “we listen, care and help in a non-judgemental way”.
Sgt Sawers said: “They do such a good job helping the people who need some assistance but not enough to need the emergency services.
“It reduces the calls to us and the others, although we’re always there, but the pastors are equipped to deal with as much as bandaging broken arms and sending you to hospital in a paid taxi to comforting you if something is on your mind.”
‘Time and time again on reflection, offenders wish they had simply walked away’
Inspector Kenny McGeough, of the divisional alcohol violence reduction unit (DAVRU), urged people to take responsibility of their actions while on a night out.
After 24 years on the force, the inspector has seen countless times how just one punch can change a life instantly.
He said: “A single split second action could change your life forever, a single punch, head butt, inappropriate comment etc.
“Many people don’t realise the tragic consequences that a single action can have on the lives of the victim, the offender and many others.
“By losing control or your temper and lashing out, you will be charged, arrested by the police and could end up losing friends, a relationship, lose family connections, lose your job.
“Time and time again on reflection, offenders wish they had simply walked away.”
The team try to minimise incidents by encouraging people to be responsible for their actions as well as ensuring the robust alcohol licensing laws are enforced.
Insp McGeough, who enjoys the varied nature of his career, said: “A rewarding part of the role is the feeling that we are doing all we can to make the north-east safer by preventing crime and offering sustainable community support.
“I also like to think that we offer public reassurance and act as a deterrent, as violence is not acceptable, will not be tolerated and violent offenders will be apprehended from home, work, family or friends at any time.
“The least rewarding part is seeing the impact violence has on individuals and the wider community, where a person chooses to ruin their life and the lives of others even with a single act of violence.
“Although protecting the public is our job, we all need to be responsible for our own actions and life choices, whether that be the use of alcohol, drugs or otherwise.”