DOGGED detective work and a passion for supporting local people helped a popular Gorbals police officer solve a mystifying crime which had infuriated her south side community.

Glasgow Times: PC Natalie Pollok with Glasgow Times Editor Stacey Mullen and event host Amy IronsPC Natalie Pollok with Glasgow Times Editor Stacey Mullen and event host Amy Irons (Image: Colin Mearns, Newsquest)

PC Natalie Pollok was presented with the Editor’s Award at the Glasgow Community Champion Awards last night – one of two special trophies given to outstanding finalists this year. The Lord Provost's Special Recognition Award was presented to St Albert's Primary.

Glasgow Times: Teacher Alexis Pattie with children at St Albert's PrimaryTeacher Alexis Pattie with children at St Albert's Primary (Image: Colin Mearns)

It is the 15th anniversary of the Glasgow Times awards, supported by Glasgow City Council, Wheatley Glasgow, Trades House Glasgow and Merck.

Natalie said she was “shocked” even to have been nominated.

“I was only doing my job, but it’s lovely to know that the local community feels strongly enough about what I’ve done to vote for me,” she said. “It’s heartwarming to know people appreciate what I do.”

Natalie studied law at university and was working as a paralegal when she decided to switch careers.

“I wanted to help the local community, and I needed a more challenging profession,” she explained.

The Case of the Missing Pine Cones came to Natalie’s attention when she discovered a bronze sculpture worth thousands of pounds had been stolen from McNeil Street in the Gorbals.

It was a huge blow to the community and the local artists who had worked hard to create the sculptures.

Natalie dedicated weeks to the enquiry, carrying out door to door interviews and reviewing hours of CCTV footage, and she discovered nine of the popular statues had been removed - by brute force, using power tools and being dragged by a vehicle - over a four week period.

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She tracked down forensic evidence from the scene, contacted local scrap metal dealers and found six of the pine cones just in the nick of time before they were melted down.

The statues have now been returned and a suspect is awaiting trial. It would have cost £100,000 to replace the statues - money which, as Natalie points out, could be spent by the housing association on supporting tenants and other projects.

Fraser Stewart, Director at New Gorbals Housing, said: “The association was devastated when we discovered that several of our bronze pine cone statues, crafted by local artists, had been ripped out and stolen.

“We never thought we would see them again but Natalie’s swift response and determined police work secured their recovery. Local folk were impressed to see such a committed police response to the theft of community artworks and were extremely grateful for their return.”

Natalie says she is proud to have solved the case.

“Getting to know your community is vital for a police officer,” she added. “It’s the general public and local businesses that help a police officer do their job and do it well. 

“Without those links, an officer wouldn’t get the evidence that is required to convict perpetrators – and if the community knows their local officers and feel comfortable talking to them, they are more likely to report crime.”

Natalie accepted her award from Stacey Mullen, Editor of the Glasgow Times, who said: “PC Pollok’s dedication to her community, and her determination to get to the bottom of this crime which had really upset local people, make her an outstanding police officer.

“She is a very worthy winner of our Editor’s Award and we’re delighted to be able to recognise her fantastic efforts in boosting relations between the police and the Gorbals community.”

Glasgow Times: Pupils, parents and teachers at St Albert's Primary with Lord Provost Jacqueline MacLaren and Amy IronsPupils, parents and teachers at St Albert's Primary with Lord Provost Jacqueline MacLaren and Amy Irons (Image: Colin Mearns, Newsquest)

The children and teachers at St Albert’s Primary received the Lord Provost’s Special Recognition Award at last night’s ceremony.

Having discovered a distinct lack of diversity in its reading material, the talented children teamed up with local authors and illustrators to produce their own, and the resulting nine books in the We Can Be Heroes series have helped to change attitudes across the wider community.

Headteacher Clare Harker said: "We took a stand against racism, and it is so wonderful to know that people support us. After a very difficult few months, this means everything to us."

Pupils Aisha and Faiqah helped collect the trophy.

"I am amazed we won but very pleased," said Aisha, and Faiqah added: "Our school is the best, because we are inspirational. We want to inspire other schools."