WHEN I was invited to join Wrexham community beat managers on Operation Villiers I thought it would be interesting - but it turned out to be much more than that!
The aim of the operation was to prevent Year 11 pupils, who were saying goodbye to their schools for the last time, from consuming large amounts of alcohol and indulging in anti-social behaviour in and around the town.
I arrived at Wrexham Police Station at 2pm last Thursday to attend the operation briefing by PC Paula Wright, community beat manager for Acton and Borras, who was organising the logistics of the day.
PC Wright explained 11 officers would be involved from the start, with three special constables joining in later.
The main objective was to target any potential incidents of anti-social behaviour by locating hotspots where youngsters might be congregating, to take any alcohol from them and disperse the larger groups.
Officers would also try to find out how they had got hold of the alcohol and if adults had helped them obtain it.
I was allocated to travel in the 'rowdy', as the personnel carrier is known, with Sergeant Ian Evans and Constables Paula Wright, Gail Sinclair, Gareth Wedley and Ryan Jones. I felt quite excited as we left the police station and began looking around the town.
We received radio reports of large groups of youngsters in the Rhosnesni Lane area and our first port of call was the shops.
We found the youngsters in high spirits but well-behaved and officers chatted to them about having a good time without getting into trouble.
None of the teenagers had tried to buy alcohol in the offlicence and some of the shops had agreed to restrict sales to people over 21 for the day.
Sgt Evans told me how important it was to try and build up a good relationship with the youngsters so they would not automatically see the police as their enemy.
He even ended up complying with a request to add his mark to the already heavily autographed shirt of one of the lads, which caused a great deal of amusement.
So far, so good. We moved on to check out the bus station but all was quiet on that front.
Just as we were about to respond to a message that children had been seen drinking in Herbert Jennings Avenue, the 'rowdy' - and me along with it - was diverted to a serious incident in another area of the town.
The atmosphere changed completely as the officers prepared themselves for trouble and my stomach tightened as I travelled for the first time with the 'blues and twos' in operation.
Once that incident had been dealt with we checked out Herbert Jennings Avenue, but the birds had flown.
We returned to Rhosnesni Lane to find a group of boys across the road from the shops, some of them drinking from cans of lager.
The opened cans were emptied and a bag containing unopened bottles and cans was confiscated.
The lads were warned not to repeat their behaviour and it was clear the police were operating a zero tolerance policy.
Another trawl around the town revealed no further incidents and the team returned to the police station for 'refs', otherwise known as a refreshment break.
My first sortie with Wrexham police officers was over and I was already looking forward to the next one, due to begin at 6pm.
Reporting for duty that evening I was anticipating more of the same, but little did I realise the excitement was just about to begin.
The evening team was joined by three special constables, PCs John Davies, Dave Dodd and Steve Roberts, and we were soon on a non-stop round of alcohol collection. Several groups of youngsters were walking the streets with bags full of lager, which they invariably tried to hide over garden walls or in the bottom of hedges as they saw the 'rowdy' approaching.
Several groups of boys and girls were drinking lager, wine and vodka in the fields near Wrexham Rugby Club and the vehicle dropped off pairs of officers at strategic points to block the various exits.
Once again the opened containers were emptied and unopened bottles and cans were seized.
One of the groups managed to hide their drinks but an extensive search of a nettle bed uncovered the stash which included a pack of 24 bottles of lager.
Some youngsters had tried to disguise their alcohol by putting vodka and a mixer into soft drinks bottles - but to no avail.
We received a report a boy had been seen knocking over the temporary traffic lights at the junction between Rhosnesni Lane and Borras Road and the team lost no time in apprehending a suspect who had obviously consumed a large amount of alcohol.
Another youngster was stopped for being drunk and disorderly and PC Wright said: 'This is why we need to take alcohol off them. Nobody wants to stop kids having fun, but if they drink a lot of alcohol then they do things they wouldn't normally do.'
Both the youngsters were escorted to their homes. The operation continued until midnight with only a few minor incidents occurring and overall officers were very pleased with the way things had gone.
Sgt Evans said: 'We've been putting a lot more resources into anti-social behaviour and we will be having more and more operations of this type to prevent it. If we can get the alcohol off the youngsters then we will be preventing anti-social behaviour.
'I think the operation has been very successful. It was good to speak to the kids in the afternoon and have a laugh with them.'
He added: 'Anti-social behaviour can ruin people's lives. We found out some of the locations they would be using and so we were able to take the alcohol from them.
'The kids can look forward to lots more of this. This is the kind of policing the public wants, so this is the kind of policing we will give them. Anything that results in the prevention of anti-social behaviour has to be counted a success.'
PC Wright was pleased with the operation. She said: 'Because we managed to take so much alcohol off the young people it meant we prevented serious incidents later in the evening.
'We had a minor scuffle and two thefts from off-licences, but there were very few calls. There were only eight alcohol-connected calls and we found no kids drunk and incapable.' All the alcohol collected during Operation Villiers will be donated to Nightingale House Hospice for use in fundraising events.