Patrolling the roads of the region for Operation Gravity
- Credit: Archant
Although the latest technology can transform a patrol car into a mobile database of information on all our vehicles, patrols around Norfolk and Suffolk still rely on traditional policing nous, according to Sgt Harris, of the Norfolk and Suffolk roads policing team.
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras will pick up the licence plate of every car in the vicinity as they pass, instantly flagging up on the on-board computer any markers or offences.
And as a routine stop for lapsed insurance can throw up any variety of crimes, roads policing officers are routinely trained in Taser and firearms, meaning they can be tasked to any scenario.
As Norfolk police declared a 'critical incident' over a spate of recent stabbings associated with London drug gangs in the county, the teams will now target strategic corridors and known locations used by drugs gangs as the force looks to stem the violence as part of Operation Gravity.
'It is not just one crime we are looking for – it is everything, from anti-social behaviour to traffic offences or drug offences,' said Sgt Harris. 'The road users are our community – we keep them safe but we also police them. Criminals we are targeting under Operation Gravity will use the strategic corridors between Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and that is where we will come into contact with them. Depending on the intelligence that comes in we will devise a plan to deal with them.'
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Intelligence from neighbourhood policing teams, and from the community itself, is vital in helping guide their work, and will be fed into the database to ensure any officer coming into contact with suspects will be fully equipped.
'The community working with the police is so important for us,' said Sgt Harris. 'The public are the police and the police are the public. We need that co-operation so if people see anything suspicious they can contact us.
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'It could be people going into vehicles for a short amount of time, or vehicles parked in locations people might feel are suspicious. 'If someone gives us information that will be fed into our intelligence systems which in turn will go to the ANPR.
'We still need reasonable grounds to search, but it gives us grounds to start an inquiry. We can either negate it and put the intelligence back into the system that the vehicle is all in order, or it might give us another piece of the jigsaw.
'We want to be stopping the decent hits based on the best information. Gravity patrols will be specifically targeting the supply of controlled drugs, and that relies heavily on information given to us.
'We will be tasked to strategic roads or known locations, based on that information.
'ANPR does not remove your skills as a police officer – it is like a second pair of eyes. With drugs a vehicle might be picked up coming out of a certain road or close, and we will have to devise a tactical plan to get it stopped.
'If the information linked with Operation Gravity is that people will use weapons, officers armed with Taser or firearms will be deployed. We will constantly risk assess and ultimately most of the time we will talk to people. That is the biggest tool in our armoury - communication, so people understand why we are there and what the situation is.'
Anyone with information about drug activity in their area should contact Norfolk Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively information can be left anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.