Police in Melton are intensifying their fight against crime by targeting prolific offenders and the issues which cause them to break the law, as well as improving the way officers engage with residents.
That was the message from Insp Gavin Drummond, Melton’s local neighbourhood policing chief, as he described the response of his team to a crime spike last summer.
Dozens of businesses, homes and vehicles were broken into and arson attacks resulted in a number of cars being destroyed over a period of a few months last year, resulting in heightened concerns on social media that police were losing control of the streets.
A petition, signed by hundeds of residents and calling for officers to do more to combat crime, was handed to Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, Lord Willy Bach, prompting him to call a public meeting in October to discuss the force’s response to criminal actiivity.
This rise in crime followed the release of figures by the Office of National Statistics which showed there was a 22 per cent increase in reported crime in the Melton area in the year up to March, well above the national average rise of 10 per cent.
This all comes at a time when police budgets are being squeezed with the Leicestershire force operating with 547 fewer officers since 2009, almost a quarter of the manpower, and there now being one police officer per 599 members of the public across the county, compared to the one for every 430 it was in 2006.
We spoke to Insp Drummond to find out what the police have done to arrest last year’s crime spike and the new tactics officers are using in 2018.
Q1 Following the spike in crime last year there appear to be fewer crimes reported in the Melton district. Is this the result of work your officers have done and, if so, what specific actions have been taken to tackle crime locally?
Insp Gavin Drummond: During the summer of 2017 Melton did see a spike of offences being committed across the town centre and surrounding areas. Local officers worked tirelessly to investigate and gather intelligence around these offences, which enabled us to identify a small group of local individuals who were committing these crimes. Over a short period we were able to enforce against these individuals by arresting and putting them before the courts, leading to a number of custodial sentences being issued. There is no coincidence that since these individuals were brought to justice that we have seen a reduction in offences being committed since the summer period.
Whilst it is important to target the individuals committing these crimes it is also important to consider the wider issues, such as substance misuse, that causes these people to act in such a way. We have, since the summer, conducted warrants aimed at targeting those people who are dealing drugs in the community leading to recovery of drugs, arrests and prosecutions.
Q2 How useful was the public meeting held at Melton Council in October and what new actions have been taken as a result of points which were made that night?
GD: The community meeting in October was particularly valuable and it was great to see so many local people who care about community safety in Melton. This event allowed for representatives from the Community Safety Partnership to listen to concerns regarding a wide range of subjects, ranging from rural crime to road safety and acquisitive crime. The meeting also presented an opportunity to discuss the picture of local policing, including the fact that local neighbourhood officers at Melton police station are supported by a team of officers working from the location 24/7, 365 days a year.
One of the main points I took away from the evening was the reinforcement to my beliefs regarding the importance of communication, and how engagement and consultation can support and reassure local communities. Since the meeting we have worked with local community group, Melton Matters, to ensure that regular multi-agency community engagement events have been carried out across Melton. This has enabled officers and representatives from Melton Borough Council to see and hear about local issues, and how we can work together to identify practical solutions to resolve these concerns.
Q3 It was mentioned at the public meeting that a new neighbourhood investigation unit was starting in the local policing area in October. What kind of work is the unit carrying out and how effective has it been so far?
GD: The Neighbourhood Investigation Unit is now fully embedded at Melton and the team of officers are carrying out investigations across a number of different local crime types. Having the officers based at Melton means that local crime is now being investigated by local officers who have an understanding of the wider issues facing the communities in Melton, meaning that victims of crime will receive a better level of service. This is further supported by the fact that the investigation team is working alongside the dedicated neighbourhood offices enabling for a more effective and joined-up approach to local problem solving.
Q4 How can the public help police in the Melton area? Is there any one thing you would ask them to do to help officers tackle crime locally?
GD: Whilst we have a number of dedicated officers working at Melton, they cannot be everywhere all of the time. We are reliant on our communities to be our eyes and ears and to have confidence that information and intelligence that they report to us will be acted on where possible. This is especially true across some of our rural communities, where criminals may see isolation as a weakness. Rural communities need to work together to ensure that people or vehicles acting suspiciously are reported as quickly as possible to the police, so that we can disrupt and deter rural crime.
I would encourage anyone who has concerns about policing in their community to contact their local officer whose details can be found on our webpage www.leics.police.uk, or by visiting Melton Police station. Residents can also see the local work being carried out by the teams on our Facebook and Twitter pages using @MeltonPolice.