Tell us about your police career so far...
My professional career started in Southend in 1999 when I worked for four years as a police constable. Then I went to the road policing unit in Chigwell for a year and was promoted to sergeant at Grays, where I was in charge of the response team there.
Next I moved to the neighbourhood policing team in Laindon, where I was later promoted to inspector.
I had a three-month secondment to the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office in December last year, working as his police adviser, before being selected as Southend district commander.
Is it nice to be back in Southend?
It’s a homecoming. It’s really good to come back to a town I so much care about.
Have you been impressed with what you have seen so far?
Very. My early impression of meeting Southend officers is they are extremely hard-working, professional individuals, who genuinely want to do the best for Southend.
Many of them live in Southend. Southend, perhaps more than many towns, is policed by people who live here, so they share some concerns and interests of the community and residents should trust us to work in their interests.
Last week, two suspects stole a couple of phones and a really quick response identified them.
We went to their home, arrested them and recovered the phones from within the property – all on the same day. Officers are really quick to respond and proactive.
A fresh wave of cost-cutting for Essex Police is on its way. What do you make of it?
We constantly push for the interests of our own little worlds. I don’t want to see local policing numbers falling, so I’m really pleased I’m getting 50 more officers inmy team. I think the local policing is where you see the crime prevention.
The development of trust with the public is important and police numbers need to be looked at with the long term in mind, not the short term.
Why do they need to look at long term rather than tackling what is going on now?
Response policing has been shown to be just that – it doesn’t prevent demand, it responds to what happens.
The way to survive, and to continue to survive, is for us to reduce that demand and so reduce howmuch we are needed, so the resources we have can cope. If you reduce the number of people you have, but not the amount they have to do there comes a tipping point.
Has the force learned from the introduction of less localised "borderless policing" which aimed to save £42.2million?
We very quickly recognised we needed to connect local commands to their locality. We learned that lesson very quickly – that rather than having a single command trying to work across the force we needed local teams.
The sense I get of the Evolve project is that lessons have been learned and the need for local policing has very much been recognised.
How do you think you'll adapt to any changes?
I will see if I can reduce demand on us – what can I do to stop people needing us in the first place?
I have identified the peak streets for crime and we are working out how to target them. I want to do that through a number of agencies working together.
We will be applying the limited resources we have to certain areas. The sense behind it is if we focus on a particular area with a poor incidence of crime and antisocial behaviour, you not only get a reduction in crime and antisocial behaviour, you have a dissipative effect and an impact on the areas around it.
The challenges will be significant –let’s not underestimate that – but we will continue to ensure when someone needs us we are there.
What are your main priorities?
I am keen to tackle violent crime and burglary. I want to prioritise the professionalism of our officers to promote the trust and confidence residents have in the police.
I have also held meetings to see what our priorities should be as we head into the summer months. In Southend last June, July and August had 15 per cent more incidents than the next closest district. Within the peak of that, in July, Southend had 50 per cent more incidents than it did in February.
We have six million visitors to Southend every year. Last year was a boiling hot, beautiful summer, so it attracted more people and the council has done an awful lot to make Southend an attractive place. With more visitors, comes the potential of more crime, sowe need to make sure we are prepared and get ahead of the problem rather than firefight.
Do you see yourself as a man behind a desk or on the beat?
I’m trying to balance it. The reality of being a senior manager in policing is a lot of my time is spent being amanager and that’s often desk-based. However, in my first fewweeks I’ve spent more time out of my office. I’ve been going out on patrol. I’ve scheduled to go out with PCSOs in Leigh and Shoebury and it’s my intention to go out on patrol.
I know the area and I know where the streets are, but for me, it’s about leadership and showing my team I want to know the challenges they face and learn from them what they think we can do better.
People always say they want more bobbies on the beat, and with 50 more police officers coming to Southend you should be able to do that. What do you make of it?
Realistically, I am unable to achieve a bobby on every street corner, but I’m really pleased we are getting more neighbourhood police officers.
There have been an awful lot of studies on policing and some outstanding work, which I am really interested in. We must use our resources wisely. It is frequently reported people want to see more foot patrols, but studies showwhat they reallywant is not to be a victim of crime.
I want to make sure we have the right policing in the right place to make Southend safer. That iswhat I’m here to do. I need the public to trust us to be doing that in its interest.
You have moved from Laindon, where Essex County Council now turns off the street lights between midnight and 5am. Are you happy Southend still keeps its lights on?
At the moment, the figures suggest turning them hasn’t had a serious impact on crime levels. I recognise it creates a feeling of concern because it’s dark, but it’s also dark for the potential offenders, so they can’t see what they’re doing.
It’s not necessarily to a criminal’s advantage to have to operate in the dark.
There are plans to spend £6million upgrading Southend police station, what will happen while building work is being done?
Part of the plans will see the windows replaced. We will have to move out while that’s done, so we are taking the opportunity to redesign our offices too.
We are looking at where we are going to have our policing base. We are looking to have policing in Southend town centre and working out howwe cover 999 calls. While the work is being done, arrested people in custody will have to go to Basildon and are putting plans in place to minimise the impact of transferring them.
We aren’t recreating the Shard, but it will be a building fit for purpose, with cameras in each cell, which will reduce the number of officers we need to keep an eye on those in custody.
That which will free up an officer to be deployed elsewhere.
Is there anything you want to say to the public?
We can’t deal with something if we have not been told about it.
I would encourage people to look on the Essex Police website, find out who their local officers are and contact them directly, or call 101 about anything which concerns them.
Of course, if it’s an emergency, they should dial 999.