Last week, I became commander of a district that includes one of the safest cities in England, which is also in the safest county in England. Those aren’t hollow claims, they are facts based on government analysis of a huge amount of crime data.
Facts like that can be very reassuring to people who live or work in this wonderful district. But they don’t mean everything is perfect. We deal with thousands of serious crimes a year in York and Selby. That means thousands of victims, thousands of lives affected by crime.
And they certainly don’t mean we should be complacent as a police force. I’ve been a police officer for almost 30 years – I know that the moment the police stop trying to improve and evolve would be the moment criminals gained the upper hand.
There’s always scope for progress, no matter how effectively things have been done in the past.
So I’m going to share my three top goals for policing the York & Selby District and explain how we’re going to achieve them.
Public spaces are, by definition, for everyone to enjoy. If people who use a town or city centre, park or other communal areas feel intimidated or are at risk of crime, something is wrong. The lawless minority does not have a right to ruin public spaces for the law-abiding majority.
We’ve already made big strides in tackling this and there’s excellent work happening as we speak. We’re using dispersal orders to stamp out antisocial behaviour at key points right now – and we’re backing them up with a strong police presence so people feel safe, however they choose to use public spaces. I want to see that continue for as long as the need exists. Yes, there’s more work to do, and yes, we’ll do it.
As you read this, we’re also doing work with other organisations to prepare for the full reopening of the night-time economy after July 19 and planning how we police high footfall areas with maximum impact. The night-time economy is a big part of our district’s economy and people are welcome to come here to enjoy their leisure time. Millions of people manage to do that legally, safely and respectfully every year. We won’t tolerate those who don’t.
Goal 2. Tackling the harm drugs and alcohol do to our communities
Communities are damaged by crime. Crime is often fuelled by drug or alcohol misuse. So I want to ensure we get to the root cause of this issue. I want to build on the good work with partners like local authorities, the local hospitality sector and the wider community that has seen scores of troublemakers banned from pubs and bars and the tiny minority of rogue businesses that perpetuate this trouble held to account.
But illegal drugs present different challenges. We know that early intervention – getting people the support they need before addiction really takes over – works wonders. I’m keen to see us develop that approach further, to prevent the cycle between drugs and crime taking hold in the first place especially among young people.
Most of the drugs in our district are brought in from other areas. This is often done by ‘county lines’ gangs which also import violence, exploitation, misery and fear. Our excellent Expedite team has led our force’s response to this – hundreds of drug dealers are in prison as a result. We will police York and Selby in a way that makes it a totally hostile environment to everyone involved in this repugnant trade, from low-level street dealers to organised crime ringleaders. I know we will have the full support of our communities.
Goal 3. Keeping our roads, and everyone who uses them, safe
One of the ways we can keep drug gangs and other criminals out of our communities is to intercept them before they even reach their destination. We have skilled teams like our Operational Support Unit and Roads Policing Group who specialise in this. And we’ll be sharing some of their skills with officers from our local policing teams.
But road policing is much more than ridding our routes of criminals. Last year, almost 40 people died on North Yorkshire’s roads and more than 250 were seriously injured. One in six of those serious injuries happened in our district.
Virtually all were due to driver or rider error. It’s a heartbreaking figure but we know we can do something about it. We’ll be bringing more targeted road safety education and enforcement operations to York & Selby District – initiatives like Operation Boundary, which focuses a high volume of police units on key routes and pays particular attention to vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists. And we’ll use the skills, resources and expertise of the York & North Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership to do everything in our power to reduce those harrowing statistics.
Let me be very clear – these are by no means our only priorities and we won’t fixate on these at the expense of the many other issues we deal with.
But I’m fully aware they’re big challenges. We’re setting the bar high.
These sort of goals need a clear plan. So we’re going to focus on maintaining high investigative standards to ensure we put together robust cases that bring people to justice.
What’s more, we’re not just going to respond to crime. We’re going to respond and then aim to fix the problem, to prevent us dealing with the same issues over and over again. Prevention and early intervention is key.
And to solve problems we need to share skills. We’ll share them with other organisations and ensure we recruit and retain people who understand the issues we’re trying to address, represent the communities we serve and have the skills and determination to make positive changes.
Without public support it would be impossible for us to police. And without the information supplied by the public we’d be working in the dark.
So if you have concerns or information about any offences in York & Selby District, from antisocial behaviour to drink driving to drug dealing, share it with us by calling 101 and selecting option 1. Every report is taken seriously and it helps us build our policing response around the issues affecting our communities.
Together we can make one of the safest places in England an even safer place to live, work and visit. And that’s an exceptional goal we can all share.