New team to root out criminality on Suffolk’s roads
Suffolk Constabulary’s newest team is now on the road to crackdown on criminals, protect local communities and tackle cross-border criminality.
The newly-established Operation Sentinel team will provide enhanced coverage of Suffolk’s road network to proactively disrupt serious and organised criminal activity as well as increasing police visibility. The 21-strong unit has been made possible by an increase in police numbers paid for by this year’s precept increase.
The mobile unit will disrupt criminals and protect communities across Suffolk’s road network using a variety of techniques to deal with offenders involved in the highest criminal threats proactively, firmly and securing prosecutions.
The force has always made clear that the changing nature of crime and its rise in certain areas means Suffolk’s policing model needs to be as flexible, effective and efficient as possible for the communities it serves.
The Sentinel Team will capitalise on the investment in innovative technology and will be fully supported by the force’s intelligence systems and structures to ensure they are able to intercept and disrupt criminals across Suffolk.
The officers within the team will use specialist techniques to exploit the technology available to them to make Suffolk a hostile environment for criminals to operate. The team will have access to the widest range of proactive policing tactics and will use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and mobile fingerprint devices to identify and intercept criminals to frustrate their activities.
The Sentinel Team, which consists of 21 additional officers (three sergeants and 18 police constables) will concentrate solely on disrupting high- threat criminal activity, supporting our response and local policing teams to focus on those issues that matter most to our communities. Three teams will provide coverage across the county.
The team, covering the south of the county, started its operations in late May. Similar teams for the East and West with the same number of officers will follow in September this year.
The teams will work closely with the intelligence units, other proactive teams and investigators to ensure maximum results from their efforts.So far, the South team have made 34 arrests in 16 days of operational activity
In December 2018, the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner published plans for the police element of the precept increase for 2019/20*. This new team accounts for £1.6m of the precept rise and contributes to addressing two main concerns – the increase in violent and drug related crime and improved visibility.
Chief Constable Steve Jupp said: "The nature of policing is constantly evolving and protecting our communities from harm is our priority.
"This new team is another example of Suffolk Constabulary’s commitment to maintain proactive policing to prevent criminals causing misery in Suffolk.
"The introduction of Op Sentinel demonstrates that we have, and will continue to, listen to the public who we serve and who want as many officers on the frontline as possible.
"This team will ensure we use appropriate policing tactics and technology to target those individuals who cause the most harm to our local communities.
"They will be a valuable addition to the overall policing structure in the county to ensure we remain on the front foot and deny criminals use of the roads, and put them before the courts.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: "Suffolk is one of the safest counties in the country, but that’s not to say there aren’t challenges ahead and that is why I made the decision to increase the policing element of the council tax by the maximum possible earlier this year.
"This additional funding has enabled the Chief Constable to increase the police establishment to form this proactive team to help fight organised crime.
"I’m well aware it was a big increase and I understand it was unwelcome news for some people, but this will enable us to improve detection rates and make Suffolk a hostile environment for criminals, which is what people want.
"To be proactive, we need to have the resources and Op Sentinel give us the extra officers on our roads that we need. It won’t change everything but this is a major step-change in the fight against crime in our communities and I welcome this pre-emptive approach.”
Head of Crime, Safeguarding & Incident Management, Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger said: "Serious and organised criminals use the road network extensively in order to facilitate their criminal activities. The Op Sentinel team will allow us to intercept offenders to disrupt such activity, seize their assets and then convict them to protect our local communities.
"This 'front-foot' approach is exciting and it allows us to keep building our constantly evolving intelligence picture and respond intelligently by positioning resources appropriately.”
"This team is about actively taking the fight to those who are either committing, or intending to commit, crime in Suffolk. It acknowledges our continual need to respond effectively to the fluid nature of organised and serious crime gangs, such as dealing in class A drugs, serious violence as well as cross- border criminality.
"The use of ANPR and the other technologies gives us the opportunity to respond more swiftly and increases the likelihood of criminals being arrested. This approach demonstrates that we are doing all we can to ensure communities are kept free from crime.
"It sends a clear message that Suffolk is not a ‘soft touch’ when it comes to serious and organised criminality – we are determined to identify and bring such offenders to justice.”
What exactly is ANPR?
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is used to help detect, deter and disrupt criminality at a force, regional and national level, including tackling travelling criminals and organised crime groups. There is evidence that the value of ANPR is improving national security, intelligence led investigations and in the investigation of major and serious organised crime leading to the conviction of offenders. ANPR is currently in use across Suffolk in the form of fixed site cameras, mobile cameras and in police vehicles. As a vehicle passes an ANPR camera, its registration number is instantly checked against database records of vehicles of interest. Police officers can stop a vehicle, check it for evidence and, where necessary, make arrests. It allows officers’ attention to be drawn to offending vehicles whilst allowing law abiding drivers to go about their business unhindered. The police do not deploy ANPR for the use of speed detection and there is no legislation which allows ANPR to be used in this way.
What road networks will the teams use?
The Op Sentinel teams will operate on the county’s key ‘A’ road networks as well as ‘B’ routes. In line with national policy, we do not disclose details of exact locations as this information is likely to be of benefit to offenders and if known could reduce the value of ANPR to policing.
How will their performance be measured?
The teams will record the number of stops, arrests made, drugs recovered, offences identified, fixed penalty notices issued, searches conducted and proceeds of crime seized.
Are these 21 officers newly created posts?
Yes – they are brand new posts. The posts have been funded by the decision by the Suffolk PCC to raise the policing precept by £24 per annum for a Band D property.
How many arrests have you made so far to date and what offences are these for?
Since the Op Sentinel South team went live they have made 34 arrests over 16 days (to 25 June) of operation activity. These have been for a variety of offences including possession with intent to supply drugs, fraud offences, handling stolen goods, possession of an offensive weapon, possession of articles to commit fraud and drug driving.
Why not launch all three teams at once?
All 21 officers have now been selected from interview. The South team is now operationally active. However a phased implementation is needed to ensure other policing roles across the county are not diminished and their current effectiveness is sustained. Before each team goes live the officers will receive the necessary training and attend briefing sessions so they are fully proficient when using the equipment.