Blackpool’s top cop admits it’s an honour to lead his home town force – but knows he’s facing a major test of his abilities in running day to day policing of a unique place.
Chief Inspector Lee Wilson is the man tasked with keeping the public safe in Blackpool and bringing criminals to book.
As the second most senior officer in the force’s Western Division – working under Chief Superintendent Stuart Noble, Chief Inspector Wilson oversees the work of numerous teams across the resort ranging from CID detectives and the public protection team to traffic, neighbourhood and response officers.
A former Bonny Street detective, the 47-year-old knows only too well how challenging the job can be, particularly given the growth in computer-based crimes.
But he also knows the resort like few others on the force.
“I’m Blackpool born and bred,” he said.
We are dealing with areas of significant deprivation at the same time as policing that
“I’ve been in the police here for more than 20 years, with a lot of that time as a detective.
“I’m from a police family.
“My father was a detective sergeant in Blackpool, he served for more than 30 years.
“I grew up here, I live in the area, I know the town and the people.”
The father-of-three is ready to have his mettle tested.
“It’s a pride, it’s an honour,” he said.
“But it’s also a big challenge.
“I’ve no doubt it will test me and test my personal resilience.
“But I am keen to deliver.”
Having worked in Blackpool for two decades, most recently as a detective inspector with Blackpool CID, Chief Inspector Wilson is in a strong position to understand the priorities.
But the dad-of-three, who lives on the Fylde coast, knows it is vital to listen to what the public have to say and take on board criticism.
He said: “We have to be pragmatic and listen to the public about what they want and what they expect from their police officers.
“We are all members of the public, we all have families, we are human.
“There is an expectation of how an incident will be dealt with by our officers.
“We don’t always get it right but we need to understand when we have made mistakes and learn from them.”
Chief Inspector Wilson’s appointment has come at a time of big change for officers in Blackpool.
Not only are moves afoot to relocate to a brand new police station in Clifton Road as early as next year but officers, at national and local levels are moving away from the often criticised ‘target led’ approach.
The focus now is on getting resources to those who need them the most.
“The way we carry out policing is changing,” said Insp Wilson.
“There is much less focus on targets –there is still a place for that but the focus has shifted.
“Our strategy, which is driven from the top, is priority based.
“That means we are always looking to see where our resources are most needed.
“We have to set priorities based on risk and threat.
“You have to look at where you can put your officers to provide the best protection to the public.
“That means when a crime is reported we might not be able to get to someone right away, there might be someone who needs us more.
“But we will get to you.”
While responses are being dealt with on a priority basis, Chief Inspector Wilson recognises that whatever the incident, becoming a victim of crime is a significant event in people’s lives.
But he also made clear how difficult it was, in some instances, to build a case. He said: “Burglary, anti-social behaviour, vandalism... they are high impact crimes. They have a high impact on the victim.
“Anti-social behaviour can be dreadful, it can have a significant impact on lives.
“It is not straight forward.
“We have to have evidence.
“There is a process and there may be two or three stages we have to go through before somebody is arrested.”
One thing Chief Inspector Wilson recognises is that police cannot make a difference alone.
And he’s keen on building bridges with other organisations across the town and looking at alternative ways of changing neighbourhoods for the better.
“It’s not just about policing duties, it’s so much more,” he said.
“It’s about building wider partnership.
“There is real determination and some well established relationships between our officers and our local partners. We are working with child services, with addiction workers, with the NHS and with charities.
“We are keen to look at better ways of doing things.”
One thing Chief Inspector Wilson knows is how diverse the policing operation in Blackpool can be with high numbers of tourism, some of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods and major events to handle on a daily basis.
He said: “We have a massive number of licensed premises, a huge night time economy.
“Not only that but we have responsibility for a huge seasonal tourist economy.
“We are dealing with areas of significant deprivation at the same time as policing that.
“That presents some unique challenges.
“There are also major events such as the Air Show to police and we have provided support for other events, like when Top Gear filmed here.
“I had the privilege of commanding the police operation for the World Fireworks Championship. These events are fantastic but also test our resources.”