Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre's superintendents discuss policing, problems, austerity and Bonny Street
The three police superintendents who cover Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre have revealed their aims and objectives of their roles in policing the Fylde coast and how seven years of austerity have been ‘tough’.
In an exclusive interview with the Gazette at the West Division HQ in Blackpool, Supt Jackie Kingsman, Supt Damian Kitchen and Det Supt Jon Holmes spoke about how policing has changed since they became officers and how their workforce is coping in the new police station.
Det Supt Jon Holmes is the head of crime for the West Division and oversees serious crime investigations across the Fylde coast.
He said: My main areas of responsibility are around serious crime investigation and they are split in two ways.
“One is what we used to call ‘reactive’ crime investigation and the other is proactive. We have teams of detectives that deal with investigations into vulnerability of victims, so that includes sexual offending, child protection, vulnerable adults, domestic abuse and there is sadly a large volume of that which comes through on a daily basis for our teams to deal with.
“On the proactive side, there are the things we go out on the front foot to tackle such as child sexual exploitation, modern slavery, human trafficking and organised crime groups among other.
“It’s a long list but we have teams who are dedicated to that sort of investigation work.”
Supt Holmes said cuts to policing has been a challenge, especially officer numbers, and revealed how certain events have impacted on policing.
He said: “The biggest single change I observed in my time was around the time of Jimmy Savile scandal when all of that broke. I think it made a big difference in the amount of reporting of child abuse and I think people felt that it wasn't underground and they had more confidence to report and that is good as we have got really good investigators who will listen, take them seriously and investigate professionally.
“The downside of that is how much more work you are producing for the officers which is quite an increase over time.
“We are seeing new forms of crime such as the county lines drug activity, human trafficking and modern slavery, which we are seeing more of and understand better and we have to develop new skills to fight those crimes.”
Supt Jackie Kingsman is in charge of Lancaster & Morecambe and Fylde & Wyre and covers anything from low level thefts to high value theft of plant and burglaries relating to the great proportion of the area she controls being rural.
She said: “Rural communities, by the nature, are more isolated and through some of our county lines work we are seeing them being targeted more because they are an ‘easy-in’ for criminals.
“To ensure I have sufficient staff, that comes across my teamwork with Supt Kitchen. We have to work together on that and we all have a budget that we have to allocate and what the resource looks like against that budget so I have staff based in local policing teams in Kirkham, Fleetwood and Garstang.”
Supt Kingsman revealed how nearly a fifth of ‘calls for service’ (999 calls) are not for crime.
She said: “We deal with a lot of volume calls and quite a lot of our calls for service are not crime related. About 17 to 18 per cent of calls are not crime related so.
“Our calls for service and our demand profile from the public has become far more complex and that impacts on how we police certain areas and we have to ensure we have an proportional spread of police officers across the division to give us a fighting chance of getting to the calls of service and that when we get there we do the right thing by the person who has made the call for service whether that is crime related or not and we look out for issues relating around vulnerability.
Supt Damian Kitchen controls the Blackpool Neighbourhood and Response policing team and in response to police negativity he said people in the resort can be assured everything officers do is important for the community.
He said: “We have processes within the force to decide what needs to be done and prioritised, So whether that be reducing the number of people injured and killed on our roads, improving the quality of life around Blackpool town centre or in neighbourhoods around reducing anti-social behaviour, drug use and a myriad of other things, we only have fine resources so we have to plan forward. We haven’t got the resources to waste officers time to do something that is not important so anything we are doing people can be rest assured it is important and around our objectives.
Supt Kitchen saw the move from the Bonny Street station last year and talked about how the new Gerry Richardson Way station, which cost nearly £30m, has been better for both officers and the public.
He said: “Young police officers across the Fylde coast are doing an ever increasing complex job so it’s vital as leaders of West Division that we keep our officers in the best possible shape for our communities, so working in the environment here which is a fantastic facility. You can feel the positivity around the place and it has brought the departments together, which can only mean better outcomes for our communities and better service.”
The three superintendents said they were happy to see the back of Bonny Street station, after the move last year.
Det Supt Holmes said: “It was very, very old by the time we moved out and it simply wasn’t fit for purpose.
“I accept the station is not in the town centre but it’s arguably more accessible because the town centre parking was never easy and we have greater facilities here.
“The custody suite is by far the best in the county, which in the past were quite dark and cramped.”
Supt Kingsman added: “I worked in Bonny Street for many years and what I have seen (at West Division HQ) is that staff really appreciate where they work and it’s a more cohesive approach from everyone.
“There is far more people integrating with each other so you really do get that strong sense of team ethic.
“Personally speaking I feek really privileged to work from here because I never thought I would see a new build station before I retired because it was on the cards for a decade.
“Bonny Street was maintained to a level of health and safety but it had issues and it wasn’t good.
Det Supt Jon Holmes - head of crime, West Division.
Jon lives in South Ribble and joined Lancashire Constabulary in 1992. He has worked in a variety of roles across the division including in East Lancashire and Preston. He has spent the last five years in West Division, working at both Bonny Street station and now the West Division HQ.
Supt Jackie Kingsman - Lancaster & Morecambe, Fylde & Wyre.
Born and raised in Lytham, Jackie has spent 29 years with Lancashire Police, all of it in uniform. She has had a range of roles within the force but enjoys being in West Division due to it being the area she grew up in. She now lives in Wharfe Valley in Yorkshire and commutes to the West Division HQ.
Supt Damian Kitchen - Blackpool Neighbourhood and Response Policing
Joining the force in 1996, Damian spent his first six years as an officer in Burnley as well as a spell as a sergeant in Accrington. He has also worked on the roads policing team and been a sergeant and inspector in firearms and public order command. Damian lives in the Ribble Valley and has recently moved into his current role in West Division HQ but has worked in the area for a number of years.