HE NEVER forgets a face and is a crook’s worst nightmare. NICK McCARTHY meets the police worker using his total recall to clean up the streets.
Meet West Midlands Police’s secret weapon – memory man Andy Pope.
The community support officer has a photographic memory and a knack for spotting crooks.
Andy was honoured by the force last month for identifying more than 130 suspects in just 12 months.
And just last week the 34-year-old, from Redditch, added to his tally when he recognised another wanted man through only a small mole on his cheek.
Andy spotted the 28-year-old in Station Street, Birmingham city centre, and chased him through the indoor and outdoor markets before other officers arrived to make an arrest.
During the chase he was attacked by the suspect – wanted since May in connection with a Solihull burglary and a beating – and was threatened with a pair of scissors.
Andy joined the force in 2005 after working as a sports shop manager.
His talent for spotting faces was picked up by his boss, Acting Inspector Gareth Morris.
Andy said: “I always thought it was quite normal. It’s not like I remember everything, it’s mainly faces.
“I didn’t even notice it until my boss said nobody on the force could do it like I do.
“It drives my wife mad, though, because I can watch something on television and I always remember where I have seen them before.”
Andy has worked with the Safer Travel team policing public transport routes since 2008 and is one of nearly 30 West Midlands and British Transport PCSOs assigned to the work.
He used to cover Kings Norton and Acocks Green and now monitors buses, trains and trams across east and south Birmingham and the city centre.
Andy said: “Other PCSOs are limited to specific areas but, because of where I work, I see a lot of people travelling on major arterial routes and coming through the city centre.
“We get lists of wanted people every day and I always come in 30 minutes early to check over the latest wanted faces and I also have a quick look at lunch.
“There have been quite a few people I have spotted on checks where we stop buses and support ticket inspectors.
“I have either come across them before or remembered the face from a picture.”
Andy was presented with the Joyce Campbell Award last month by West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims.
The accolade honours a police staff member of the year and was handed to Andy for helping to dramatically cut crime on the region’s bus, train and tram network.
“I was very proud to win the award and it’s always nice to get a bit of recognition for the job you do,” he said. “My family is also very proud and they came to the award ceremony.
“I love the job. I love the variety and the fact that every single day is different.”
The Safer Travel team is running a anti-crime campaign on buses and trams called “see something, say something.”
Police can be tipped off about problems by calling 101 or texting 83010.