Police team 'very alive' to organised crime, says local district commander
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
A Norfolk police team are said to be "very alive" to organised crime and have been successful in creating a "no-go zone" for hare coursing in the county.
It comes after figures from an Freedom of Information request revealed crime levels in the Downham Market SNT policing area on the whole remained consistent from December 1, 2019 to December 31, 2020, with a total of 1,534 recorded across the offence categories.
Temporary Supt Lou Provart, district commander for west Norfolk, said Covid has had a "substantial effect" on crime across the UK and peak months of crime in the area over the past year coincided when not in lockdown.
He added: "We can definitely show during the course of lockdown crime suppressed and when people were able to be out and about, crime rose back to the normal, expected levels.
"But ultimately they are consistent during the points of when lockdown was relinquished."
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Figures show criminal damage, stalking and harassment and violence were the highest recorded crimes in the Downham Market policing area, with a total of 170 recorded across the period for criminal damage, 221 for stalking and harassment and 446 a combined total for violence with injury and violence without injury.
But Temporary Supt Provart, who oversees policing in west Norfolk and Breckland, said criminal damage is less than one crime every two days across a large area.
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He added: "We're a low crime county when you compare us with other geographical areas."
He said domestic abuse was one of the most important issues at the moment, which saw better reporting in periods when lockdown was lifted.
He added: "We see a little bit of uplift and reporting in those periods, which is good to see because that means they've been able to break away from quite damaging households and relationships - we want to see that continue.
"But across the force area because of the way that we have highlighted this issue with partners, almost one in four of every crime is related to domestic offending, so we are dealing with what you probably call hidden crime much more than we are historically."
He said those 'hidden crimes' relate to stalking, harassment, domestic violence in the household and that a greater violence profile, with there being a differentiation between community violence and violence in the home, is related to greater domestic violence reporting.
He added: "One contact from a victim is now likely to generate multiple recorded crimes so it's not as simple anymore as saying one crime is one person, it's not, it could be three or four crimes related to that one person, so that's why we can't say crime itself is holistically up - the way we record it is slightly different now and that's to do with the national Home Office crime standards.
"But they do contribute to the overall violent crime pattern."
Speaking about key policing in the Downham Market area, he said things like hare coursing, theft from farms and rural communities were issues you do not particularly get elsewhere - highlighting Operation Galileo.
He said: "It's a long-running operation centred on the west of the county, particularly around the Downham Market area, which seems to attract people coming into the county and committing these offences which is something people don't see, they don't think is an issue."
But he added it was a "significant matter" for the land owners and the damage it causes, and also the impact it has on wildlife.
He said: "We have a strong Downham Market policing team who are alive to the issues of hare coursing and we've had massive success in driving people out of this county - Norfolk is a no-go zone for hare coursing."
He added: That's really why we have a dedicated rural crime team in this locality and they're the ones responsible for picking up the dog thefts for example and getting a fantastic result."
Asked whether ASB is increasing in the area, he said: "Over the course of three years we have had massive reductions in ASB so if you look at the five year trend, ASB has dropped by about one-fifth and it's probably more I imagine.
"But it's a significant reduction over the course of the long-term."
He said they had been successful in dealing with ASB and organised criminality, adding public places like the Tesco's in Downham Market which "tends to attract younger adolescent" groups is being tackled.
He added: "Downham Market is not for example a place where you won't find organised criminality, and it was only just before Christmas that we located what we call a chop shop which was out in Upwell.
"An organised crime group were stealing cars from Yorkshire bringing them down to Downham Market, chopping them up and getting them packaged up ready for an overseas market and we disrupted that through our Operation Moonshot team from Downham Market, and actually it's that kind of good work that probably goes unnoticed because the theft aspects don't happen in Norfolk but we're the ones picking up all the criminality around it.
"So we're very alive to this and actually we want the community to keep calling us and giving us intelligence, because without that we won't be able to disrupt these significant groups."
He said he was "massively proud" of the team and thanked the work of response officers who perform the role of frontline policing.