'We've seen parcels stolen from doorsteps' - top police officer's warning to protect Christmas presents from thieves
In his latest column, Suffolk police chief constable GARETH WILSON looks at the highs and lows of policing at Christmas - and how you can prevent yourself becoming a victim of crime during the festive season.
With Christmas fast approaching, I thought this column would reflect the highs and lows of the festive season and looking forward to the year ahead.
My festive celebrations started with a couple of events with groups of retired Suffolk officers and some of their partners, where over two delightful meals I was able to listen to some exceptional stories about policing the county over many decades. What a decent and professional bunch they were and some real characters.
It is the season of goodwill and one where we would like to think everyone will be law abiding.
Now, I do like being a police officer when it snows. There is an inevitability that at some stage there will be a burglary where the suspect is detained some distance away and their protestations of innocence are silenced when you point out the trail of footprints leading from the burglary ending where they are stopped.
I am told the riot shields also make the speediest of sledges but a national newspaper took great exception to some colleagues in a force south of London doing that last year. How foolish to have got caught!
There are some very easy steps you can all take to spoil a criminal’s Christmas.
Firstly, leave random lights on in your house. An unlit house is likely an empty house and villains are the opposite of moths – light helps repel them.
Secondly, when you order gifts online, order from a reputable seller and arrange a secure delivery. We have already seen parcels stolen from doorsteps. Collection points are so much more secure.
We have some excellent retail outlets with Suffolk, be those on well-established high streets or out of town, so go out and visit them and savour the festive spirit.
When the day goes on and the weight of the presents grow, don’t be tempted to leave them on view on the back seat - some low-life will likely ruin your Christmas by breaking the window and helping themselves.
There aren’t that many people who want to play the Grinch at Christmas, but making it more difficult for them to strike misery really does have an impact and, as they say, prevention is better than cure.
When I meet the new recruits, they often ask about the incident that has stuck in my mind the most and the answers are sometimes different as my career reflects that of many other police officers, one full of memorable incidents, some tragic and some bizarre.
Sadly, Christmas Day in 2002 saw the one incident that I constantly say is the one that sticks in my mind as the most tragic I have ever dealt with.
Just as I settled down for my Christmas lunch the telephone rang and as the on call senior detective, I was told about a murder in Leigh on Sea where a young woman had been killed.
The reason it sticks with me even now is not just the fact that it happened on Christmas Day but the impact it had on the family, the community and those who responded to the call.
I led the investigation into numerous murders but this particular one really had a harrowing effect upon those who dealt with Jayne’s death.
Throughout the Christmas period many families will be dealt a tragic blow and the emergency services will respond in a professional way knowing their own families will be at home whilst they do their duty.
Last week saw the police budget announcement and the next couple of weeks will see intense activity finalising reports that will look at how we can best invest taxpayer’s money to keep Suffolk a safe place in which to live, work, travel and invest - not only at Christmas, but throughout the year.
The police and crime commissioner (PCC) has been given the opportunity to increase the police budget through increasing the local precept.
It is my now my responsibility to present recommendations to the PCC showing how the constabulary would invest any additional monies and how they can address some of those areas that are a challenge to us.
These include the increases we have seen in violent crime, serious sexual offences and those offences compounded by rural isolation. There is also the added complexity of the offences we are investigating to be considered.
Whatever the outcome, the ability to draw in funding from local precepting does not address the problems with the central grant funding formula and I know I will speak for both the PCC and I when I say the new year will see much vigour from us both to obtain fairer funding for Suffolk.