All in a dayssss work for our reptile expert

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We can call on the sssservices of our own ‘snake specialist’ who can offer expert advice on concerned calls about roaming reptiles.

Call handler Tom Prakash has already been asked to assist three times this year after we’ve been contacted by residents fearful for their safety after finding escaped snakes within their home.

Photo of Tom Prakash at his desk
Tom Prakash at his desk

Tom previously worked in animal research alongside leading specialists at the University of British Columbia in Canada and has a particular interest in reptiles – having owned a python himself.

So he’s the specialist point of contact for colleagues in our Force Contact Centre as he’s able to identify snakes – just from a basic description over the phone – and can quickly put minds at rest if it’s not venomous.

The 42-year-old – who never gets rattled by colleagues seeking his assistance – said: “I wouldn’t say it’s common, but it’s not rare for a snake to escape and then use the pipe network to travel elsewhere and give someone a surprise.

“I’ve already had colleagues approach me three times this year after taking a call from someone distressed and concerned. Fortunately, I’ve been able to draw on my knowledge and been able to offer advice and reassurance until either officers or the RSPCA arrive.

“I’ve always had an interest in animals, and particularly reptiles and I used to have a python myself. If you’re familiar with them they’re great pets to have.”

Tom initially trained in wildlife management before moving to Canada and carrying out animal research in his 20s. After almost a decade he returned to the UK as head aquarist at Birmingham Sea Life Centre.

However, he wanted to try something different and was drawn into policing by being able to help others.

“I had relatives and friends in the force and they always spoke positively about it, so I took the plunge and applied to be a call handler,” he said.

“I initially thought I’d give it a go for 18 months or so, but here I am eight years on and now helping to mentor new starters.

“I take great pride and satisfaction in the role, knowing I am the first point of contact for someone at possibly their biggest time of need or to take initial information which can solve a crime. I can then do something to help others and it feels really satisfying.”

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