Reporter John Fieldhouse joins Lincolnshire Police for a busy night on the beat.
Ingoldmells beach at quarter to eight on Saturday night.
PC Emma Bates is running along a pathway bordering the sands. She’s reacting to reports of a missing 11-year-old boy who has learning difficulties.
A few minutes earlier, she’d been sat at Skegness Police Station, determined to finally make some progress on the none-urgent cases that fill the in-box of her computer screen.
Then, the call came through from a member of the public, saying they had spotted a young boy - on his own - within inches of the sea.
Emma is on her own.
The other officers on her shift are either out dealing with other urgent calls...or locking up offenders from an earlier alleged assault.
When the boy is found Emma starts talking to him. He looks scared.
A few reassuring words and Emma is holding hands with the boy.
Minutes later, she’s helping him off the beach.
Two other PCs - called in to help from Mablethorpe - are waiting on the pathway.
They’d been directing traffic after a burst water main.
They agree to take the boy to hospital for the mandatory checks.
It’s a happy ending.
Emma breathes a sigh of relief. She knows it could have been much different.
It is the second missing child dealt with that evening. The first - a girl - also turned up safely at a caravan park.
A female colleague is out dealing with a domestic dispute when, it turns out, she calmed a male with a knife.
The number of officers have been bolstered by the arrival of Inspector Simon Skelton from Boston. He is the only inspector on duty in the entire Eastern Division.
Sergeant Jon Moon, tucked away in a nearby office, is covering the entire Wolds Division, stretching from Wragby in the west to Skegness in the east, Tetney in the north to Friskney in the south. To make matters worse, his computer is playing up - again.
Insp Skelton and a colleague head off in a car to ‘have a look around’ the area.
Within minutes, they are responding to reports of an alleged stolen car in Ingoldmelds.
Other officers are scrambled, including Emma who has completed her first year and PC Nick Elmer, a veritable veteran in his third year.
Within minutes, we are heading off to join the pursuit. Nick picks up speed. Blue lights flashing...other vehicles get out of his way.
We’re hurtling along the roads to catch up. Sat in the back of the car, it’s like being on the world’s craziest roller-coaster. Streets, lights and Butlins flash by in a blur.
Nick’s headlights pierce the dark night and pick out the chase ahead. A ’stinger’ has been placed across the road by officers from Horncastle.
All four tyres of the car burst. The vehicle slides to a halt on a grass verge. Nick gets the driver. Colleagues arrest the other three.
By now, it’s approaching 1am. Emma, Nick and the other officers still have another three hours on shift.
The cells at Skegness are full. Anyone else arrested will have to be escorted to Boston or Lincoln.
The shift are back on duty at 3pm the same day.
Perhaps Nick will then have time to tackle the 14 cases in on his case-load file.
They range from a neighbour dispute to a complicated fraud.
Spirit is brilliant. Tension is never far away.
At the start of the shift, the officers admitted morale is ‘up and down’.
No-one could ever accuse them of shirking their responsibilities.
These guys - and girls - are at the coal face...often working single-handed.
They never know what is around the corner.
Apparently, the previous Saturday had been even busier, more than 70 calls...but only a small fraction were actual crimes.
Officers are expected to be paramedics, nurses, social workers, road engineers and foster parents all rolled into one.
Most of them have been assaulted, spat at and verbally abused. They never say no...even if the person on the other end of the phone just wants someone, anyone, to talk to.
Concerns about their own jobs - with fears cuts could be on the cards - are never far away.
They say more officers would help. That is unlikely to happen. So would a better system of sifting out none-urgent calls...often from time-wasters.
The call centre is in Lincoln. There, staff are under just as much pressure.
Sgt Moon sums up the situation. He’s been an officer for 25 years - a sergeant for the last 10.
“These are the most testing times I’ve ever known,” he says. “The officers are being flogged but they keep coming back and I’ve never seen them working so hard. They are doing a brilliant job.”
Words like courage, commitment and dedication spring to mind. However, Sgt Moon – and others – know that thin blue line can’t stretch much more...