Police officers commended at ceremony for taking ‘One More Step’
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Partnership problem solving to safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in our communities has been commended at an awards ceremony hosted by Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
The ‘One More Step’ Prevention Awards 2022 were held at Lakeside Lodge, Pidley, yesterday (Wednesday) to recognise the excellent prevention and problem-solving work undertaken by police and partner agencies in the past year.
The event saw five finalists who were shortlisted from nine nominations.
Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) – for their work to tackle illegal hare coursing within the east of England, predominantly in Fenland, alongside associated criminal offences and anti-social behaviour (ASB).
For many years, coursers have been terrorising landowners and farmers, causing vast amounts of damage, harassment, assaults and threats, to name common circumstances. Through liaison with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Cambridgeshire Countryside Watch (CCW), it was established some of their members felt terrified living in isolated locations during the hare coursing season and faith in the authorities was decreasing.
Policing across the UK had different ways of responding to hare coursing and information sharing was minimal, making it even more difficult to tackle what is a cross-border issue.
Operation Galileo was re-launched nationally, led by Lincolnshire Police, which is the co-ordinated response to hare coursing, focusing on prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance.
During the 2020 to 2021 season, RCAT began taking a harder stance and started issuing hare-coursing specific Community Protection Warnings (CPWs), Community Protection Notices (CPNs) and Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs), as well as dispersal orders and other criminal proceedings. Incidents reported to police reduced by 18 percent.
It was important the crime was not simply displaced out of Cambridgeshire, so the process was adopted on a regional scale across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent.
Other forces in the region took the same approach and during the 2021 to 2022 season, there was an overall reduction of incidents across the region by 31 percent, and 47 percent in Cambridgeshire.
St Neots Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) – for their work to tackle a county line whose nominals were exploiting a vulnerable man in Eaton Socon.
As part of the Huntingdonshire Problem Solving Group which incorporates many agencies across the district, the group identified one individual who was subjected to modern day slavery, including coercion, intimidation and violence, by a county lines group.
Joint visits were carried out by the NPT and Chorus Homes housing provider which identified that drug and alcohol Liaison and Diversion Services (LaDS) would be crucial in supporting him and addressing his general health and wellbeing.
After building up trust and confidence, intelligence was gathered, enabling the NPT to carry out a warrant at the man’s home when the offenders were likely to be there, which resulted in the county lines group being charged and convicted of various offences, and the victim being moved to supported living accommodation away from the St Neots area.
Peterborough’s Eastern NPT – for their work in identifying an extremely vulnerable man who was being exploited at his home in Dogsthorpe.
Officers from the NPT identified several calls for service relating to the man’s home, while not a great number of calls, the nature and severity of them caused concern.
Partner agencies, including Cross Keys Homes, Peterborough City Council, Adult Social Care and health providers, came together to put a plan in place to improve the quality of life for the man, and safeguard him against those posing as his friends, but were in fact exploiting him.
Action taken included putting a partial closure order on the flat, preventing those causing issues from entering the property, as well as increased engagement from support agencies to carry out assessments and adapt a care plan.
Extra provisions were also put in place at the flat to provide a more comfortable living environment and negate the need for “false friends” who had previously befriended the man but took over the flat, including forcing him to sleep on the floor.
After a couple of months, the man’s mental health improved, as well as police receiving positive reports from neighbours about a reduction in problems at the flat, and zero calls for service to police being received regarding the man being exploited.
Intelligence and Specialist Crime Department (ISCD) – for their work alongside regional and national partners to combat county lines drug dealing and child criminal exploitation.
The team identified UK law enforcement typically managed the “symptoms” of county lines and not the “cause”, often with those responsible for perpetuating and controlling the exploitation being far removed from the physical commission of the criminal activity, and therefore had not previously been the focus of law enforcement activity which commonly focussed on those selling drugs, or “runners”.
In order to change this and target some of the higher-harm nominals, the team linked in with other police forces and partner agencies including local councils, social care, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and National Crime Agency (NCA).
New processes and training were put in place, as well as a dedicated intelligence desk set up within the force, and a dedicated lawyer within the CPS to assist with county lines investigations in Cambridgeshire.
With a change and improvement in the intelligence picture, more offenders are being identified as “line holders” and are being charged with more serious crimes such as modern slavery offences.
To date, more than 40 “line holders” have been arrested, charged and either convicted or are on remand in prison awaiting trial. Many of these were not in possession of drugs upon their arrest and many had not set foot in Cambridgeshire but were found to be sending children and vulnerable individuals to deal drugs for them.
Peterborough’s Eastern NPT – for the leading role they took to ensure a joined-up approach to safeguard a vulnerable woman who was being exploited at her home in Eastfield.
During day-to-day reviewing of incidents, one member of the NPT noticed a pattern of calls relating to a specific address in the past year, mainly relating to burglaries, criminal damage, anti-social behaviour, drug use and dealing.
Concern grew about the tenant being exploited in various forms, the flat was in a state of disrepair and was being frequented by known criminals who used it as a place to deal and use drugs, financially exploit the woman and attract other violent and criminal behaviour.
A partnership approach was put in place to improve and target-harden the accommodation, provide professional support to the victim from a range of services including mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, social care and housing providers.
Calls for service were reduced to zero – a review was undertaken to ensure the problem had not been displaced to another location, which there was no evidence of – and the victim was moved to secure accommodation where she is receiving regular support.
Assistant Chief Constable Vicki Evans said: “The nominations received for this year’s awards demonstrated a selection of the brilliant ‘one more step’ prevention work taking place across the force.
“The standards of nominations was particularly high this year, all finalists demonstrated excellent prevention and problem-solving work across a broad multi-agency and partnership arena. We saw examples of individuals and teams taking ‘one more step’ and going the extra mile, to understand the bigger picture to prevent further harm, reduce the number of victims and keep the people of Cambridgeshire safe.
“After much deliberation, we announced the winner as Peterborough’s Eastern NPT for their work to safeguard a victim of cuckooing in Dogsthorpe. While all finalists were worthy of the title, this one stood out because of the significant partnership working that was undertaken to help safeguard the vulnerable tenant of the flat being further exploited.
“The approach was reassessed at several points and fast-time changes implemented due to unforeseen circumstances such as offenders reappearing and new intelligence about threats to the victim. The submission showed great innovation, persistence and flexibility to changing circumstances.”
All five finalists will now be nominated for the 2023 Tilley National Problem-Solving Awards.