A dedicated police task force has been operating in Blackpool for three weeks now, tacking the issues that matter most to residents.
To see how these five officers got on in their new roles, The Gazette’s reporter James Graves was invited to join them for the afternoon as they carried out a number of operations across the resort.
Speaking from the police’s town centre base in Corporation Street, Ch Insp Mark Morley and Supt Damian Kitchen said the team will be out and about for residents to see.
Its aim is to be a “visible, proactive deterrent and investigation unit”, Ch Insp Morley said. “We have needed to increase the proactive capability as a deterrent for criminals in and out of Blackpool.
“They will be tasked on a daily basis to the greatest need and threat in the resort.
“We also want to promote community reassurance so being present, stopping people who we suspect are connected to crime. Knife crime is one of the biggest problems we are facing, especially with youths carrying knives more frequently.”
At a briefing, the task force was told it would be visiting a flat in Palatine Road, central Blackpool, where a 39-year-old man was wanted for breaching a court order.
Joining the talks were members of the council’s anti-social behaviour team, which joined the force – and me – as we made our way to a large blue police van.
We were let into the flat by a worker from the responsible lettings agent, though we brought the ‘big red key’ - a powerful battering ram - just in case.
The home was empty, though the flat was secured to stop the fugitive getting back inside.
Intelligence suggested another flat in Charles Street could be connected, and we arrived there five minutes later.
Again, nobody was in, though the police operation attracted some interest to neighbours, who were keen to pass on some information.
Next port of call was Talbot Road for a ‘cuckooing’ check-up on a vulnerable resident.
Cuckooing is when drug dealers take over the home of somebody to use it as a base for selling their illicit wares.
It’s a success. A 34-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of breaching two criminal behaviour orders and possessing a class A drug.
All-in-all, this highly visible operation, launched to show resort residents police will take crime like this – the petty criminality that can tear communities apart – extremely seriously.
Speaking in a police car, on the way back to base, Supt Kitchen, who oversees policing in Blackpool, said: “This is a welcome addition to policing in Blackpool.
“I hope it will provide reassurance to our local communities and businesses in the town that we are determined to tackle the issues which matter most and have the greatest impact on them.
“These officers will focus on reducing and preventing crime, helping to keep people who live in and visit the town feeling safe.
“They are all local officers with an abundance of experience and knowledge around policing Blackpool. I particularly want them to find long-term solutions to anti-social behaviour, exploitation of vulnerable people and drug dealing.”
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “The Government’s funding announcement at the end of last year made it clear that the only way to raise funds to put extra officers on our streets, which the people of Lancashire consistently tell me is what they want to see, was to fully utilise the council tax flexibility given to Police and Crime Commissioners.
“This was the only option provided by Government to protect and bolster policing here in Lancashire and not using it would have meant a further cut to the budget and 125 fewer police officers.
“Thanks to support from the public, I’m pleased to say that for the first time since 2010 investment is being made into policing here in Lancashire with additional officers going into every district, focusing on reducing and preventing crime and dealing with the issues that matter most to people.”
There are similar teams of four or five officers spread across nine areas in the county. A Fylde and Wyre team is due to follow shortly.
Mr Grunshaw continued: “This is about reconnecting with our communities across Lancashire and getting back to proactive policing and dealing with community concerns. I really hope this is just the start of investment back into policing here in Lancashire and I continue to lobby Government to demand we get back our fair share of police officers that we have lost during austerity.”