In Cardiff in the 1960s, the police at Bute Street (Tiger Bay) station were part of the social fabric of the area. Everyone knew everyone else. The system seemed to work. There were some hiccups, but, in general it worked well. Take for example the ‘girls’ who worked the top of Bute Street around the Custom House pub area. There were some young ones, and some old ones. There were some nice ones, and some grumpy ones. In general, though they were friendly and many were on named terms with the beat officers. They both actually helped each other. It seemed working the streets, as the beat men and the ‘ladies’ did, was a similar occupation. Both had to know their patch and the ‘wierdos’ that may cause them trouble etc.

They were very wary of each other, and helped with car numbers, suspicious characters etc., Many a time one of the girls would run to a police pillar to ring to get help for a copper in trouble, this before the advent of the personal radio. Some officers helped in times of emergency. One girl received a phone call at the Custom House one evening that her mother was very ill in Llandough Hospital and that she should get there quick. The local vice whizzed her over there in their car just in time.

One officer was waiting at the bus stop at the Pengam Bridge to go to work on nights at Bute Street, a couple of miles away. His duty sergeant passed him in his car on his way to Bute Street, but did not stop, just papped his horn, waved and drove on.

The officer was left at the bus stop by his superior. Photo credit: Darren Viollet

A few minutes later, one of the girls in a taxi on her way to Bute Street to ‘work’ passed also. She stopped the taxi and invited the officer to have a lift down to work. The taxi dropped her off outside Mikallef’s fish shop in Bute Street and then the officer at the police station further down. The lady paid. It was that type of society then.

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