We’re now drawing to the end of our series of public meetings for 2016. I introduced these annual meetings not long after I was first elected as Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner and for me they’re really important because I can hear at first hand exactly what people think about policing in their area.
I’m quite sure without the pressure of public opinion voiced at these meetings over the years, there probably wouldn’t have been extra resources for rural crime, roads policing and speeding enforcement.
Well this year we decided to hold a meeting in each of the 18 new Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) areas - in previous years we held 7 meetings – one in each district/borough council area. The format is tried and tested, a short presentation by me, followed by one from the Chief Constable and a local Inspector giving the local context along with a short video explaining the changes and increased complexity our Constabulary faces from the enormous change in the pattern of crime. I’m delighted the average attendance for the meetings is around 30 people – which means we get to meet about 550 people in all.
So how did the recent meeting for the Bury St Edmunds SNT fare? With about 50 people turning out to the Moreton Hall Community Centre - one of the best turnouts so far, it was an excellent example of public engagement. The audience asked questions on speeding enforcement, police visibility and the voice concerns about cyber or technology enabled crime, and raised two very important and serious matters – anti social behaviour (ASB) and the rise in illegal hare coursing.
The main concern about ASB was the enormous irritation caused by ‘boy racers’ driving their cars at excessive speed around the Moreton Hall estate - often into the small hours of the morning, causing huge inconvenience and distress for residents with the noise nuisance being intolerable. To make matters worse, it seems these inconsiderate drivers customise their vehicles to make as much noise as possible. There’s absolutely no excuse for this unacceptable behaviour in any circumstances and as a direct result of the public meeting I’m very happy to report the subsequent police action has resulted in various fixed penalty notices being issued and some driving disqualifications. As far as I’m concerned it serves the culprits right and they won’t receive any sympathy from me for their punishment.
The other major concern raised was the large increase in the numbers of reported instances of hare coursing in the area. In recent years the level of hare coursing has declined by over 80%, however, this year has seen a rise in cases between August and September. Hare coursing is a terrible crime, and most of those who carry out hare coursing have previous criminal records and very often they steal vehicles, trespass on property and cause damage to property and the countryside – and they resort to violence and intimidation, so that’s why we must all take hare coursing seriously and report it whenever we suspect it to be taking place.
I find it so disheartening how these despicable individuals undermine some of the excellent countryside conservation work done by many farmers, landowners and conservation groups – after all, the Suffolk landscape is one of the main reasons we are so lucky to live in one of Britain’s most attractive areas. But it does need to be looked after and that’s why we now have dedicated policing resources for our cherished rural areas – the dedicated rural crime officers, the rural special constabulary and our volunteers on horseback. Once again as a result of that meeting in Moreton Hall there is now an on-going police operation to catch hare coursers and bring them to justice.
Finally, I must ask all of you to keep reporting any suspicious circumstances because your feedback really does make a difference. After all its only by working together these crimes will be solved and prevented and it’s of huge benefit when it comes to prioritising what policing resources our Constabulary needs and where.
-- Tim Passmore is Police and Crime Commissioner of Suffolk