Blog: Efforts to rid Suffolk of the County Lines and Gangs

During this year’s budget setting process, my focus has been to ensure everything possible is done to make sure our Constabulary has the resources needed to reduce and prevent crime. Keeping crime levels low is even more important as we emerge from the shadows of the pandemic and rebuild our economy.

This year’s budget process was particularly testing – I had to strike the optimum balance between residents’ financial situation and supporting our police. I decided to propose an increase in the precept as I needed to ensure the good progress made over the last two years in fighting crime was not jeopardised. I also took full account of what people and businesses have been saying during the last year.

During this next financial year, the precept will help increase the overall budget to just over £150 million – over £3m of savings are also programmed. This increase will enable the Chief Constable to recruit an additional 25 police officers and 26 support staff. This, together with the government-funded Operation Uplift paying for another 53 officers next year, will enable the force’s officer strength to increase to around 1,330. This is much higher than when I was first elected as PCC in 2012.

These additional officers will help build on the great successes of the last two years where specialist policing teams have had a huge focus on catching high-harm nominals and criminal gangs; organised crime groups have been broken up, many county lines disbanded, and perpetrators put behind bars. These gangs often use extreme violence and intimidation and care nothing for the havoc and distress they wreak. The Sentinel Teams and the Serious Crime Disruption Team have made a huge impact already and are to be congratulated. We all look forward to hearing of further successes.

The new Kestrel team launched last July is a further positive initiative. In just six months there has been 36 arrests, 500 hours of foot patrols and £8K of drugs seized. These seven officers have really focussed on what matters to communities by tackling issues such as anti-social behaviour and the illegal drug trade.

During next financial year a further two Kestrel teams will be launched, so all three policing command areas will have their own contingent. These Kestrel officers and the major recruitment drive will also have a very positive impact on raising visibility countywide – something we all wish to see; greater visibility will do wonders for public trust and confidence.

At our public meetings concerns are often raised about communication with the police in general and particularly the challenges of the 101 service. I am pleased the precept will fund a major investment programme to improve the 101 service and more community engagement officers are being appointed.

Two consequences (not surprisingly) of the pandemic are the significant rises in reports of domestic abuse crimes and in online offences. As your PCC, I cannot simply hope these problems disappear which is why additional funds have been required to tackle these pernicious crimes. On average each crime submitted to our cyber crime unit now has around four separate devices analysed to assimilate sufficient evidence, so four new digital support staff will be appointed

There are several further benefits from the precept such as combatting fraud and support for victims of crime. In recognition of the need to combat climate change, there will be an increase focus to make sure the Constabulary uses scarce natural resources better.

To conclude please remember I would never have asked you to pay more for policing Suffolk if it wasn’t absolutely necessary – keeping crime levels low, caring for the victims and bringing criminals to justice will become a little easier with this additional funding. The efforts to rid Suffolk of the County Lines and Gangs threat must continue – now is not the time to ease up.

Full details of how the Council tax will be spent are on the website

Published in the East Anglian Daily Times March 2021