‘I JUST want to catch criminals’. That was the mantra of a sergeant in the road policing unit.

To give the public an insight into the work of a road policing officer, Sergeant Chris Breckell invited Lancashire Telegraph crime reporter Aban Quaynor out for a ride-along to show what a typical shift consists of.

But the short answer is there is no typical shift, as became apparent during the 11-hour stint, which started with Sgt Breckell pulling over a takeaway delivery driver for not wearing his seatbelt and finished with him searching for a driver involved in a 100mph chase.

All that was either side of hunting, finding and ‘boxing in’ a car suspected of being used for dealing cocaine.

Sgt Breckell, 39, said: “The great thing about this job is there is no typical shift. You have no idea what you will doing in half an hour. You will normally have to deal with an accident or two and you will do some automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) intercept work. Uninsured drivers are a big part of the day-to-day work. It is also not unusual to recover a stolen car.

“TV shows like Road Wars are a good reflection of what this job is like. When I was young in service I picked things up from them. They are like a highlights package of your work.

“I like catching criminals. When you get into the late hours of the night this job is like an adult game of hide and seek. You know there is someone out there breaking into a house or committing a different crime and it’s about trying to find them and catch them.”

Sgt Breckell is part of one of five teams which cover the roads of East Lancashire, but they can also be called upon to attend other incidents across the county.

That was demonstrated part way through the shift when commentary came over the police radio from an officer involved in the high-speed chase of a motorist in Preston. That pursuit was temporarily stood down on safety grounds by the force incident manager when the car reached 100mph on the Kirkham Bypass but Sgt Breckell attended to try and locate its male driver.

On the way back to East Lancashire we came across another team dealing with a female drink-driver who had crashed at the side of the road on the A59 at Brockholes Brow.

The other jobs of note were the suspected drug dealer’s Audi being boxed in on the roundabout at junction 7 of the M65, a motorist who jumped a red light eventually having his car seized for no insurance in Nelson, and two drivers being pulled over and warned for speeding in Blackburn.

There was also a reassurance patrol carried out in relation to a motorist acting suspiciously outside a house in Accrington.

The road policing officers are assisted by a series of built-in equipment in their vehicles.

That includes an ANPR reader, which carries out a real-time check of a vehicle’s details against the police database, and access to the police national computer, which allows officers to access a suspect’s criminal history while they are sitting in the back of the car.

Sgt Breckell, who spent 10 of his 13 years service as an immediate response officer before joining the road policing unit, said: “There are two sides to what we do. There is a responsibility on us to reduce the number of people who are killed or seriously injured on the roads. The second aspect is to restrict criminals’ use of the road.

“There is an increasing trend now when it comes to reducing casualties to look at educating people rather than looking to prosecute every time. So there has been an expansion in the courses offered across the county for offences like speeding.

“Prosecution is still there as an option. For certain things like drug-driving and drink-driving there is no other alternative than prosecution.

“We keep an eye on crime patterns across East Lancashire and we will deploy ourselves accordingly. If there has been a number of burglaries in an area we will go en masse to those.”