Harlow: “Reducing violence is our priority” – Chief Inspector Paul Austin
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Chief Inspector Paul Austin, District Commander for Harlow, says reducing violence in and around the town centre continues to be his top priority.
To tackle the problem, his team launched Operation Tarantula, targeting 13 individuals who are known to be habitual knife carriers with histories of violence.
The team have been working to divert them away from crime but for those not willing to engage, they have taken enforcement action.
As a result, five of the 13 are now serving prison sentences.
Ch Insp Austin says that although there has been a slight upturn in incidents of violence with injury, the perpetrators and victims are often already known to the police.
“A very small number of people in Harlow are responsible for incidents of violence. The violence is often linked to the distribution of drugs and petty feuds that may escalate from social media.
“Unfortunately, that can spill out into public areas where we have seen higher profile incidents.
“The individuals tend to be involved in the distribution of drugs or have issues with drugs and alcohol. That’s why we’ve tried to get them involved in programmes with partners to give them opportunity to move away from crime.
“But where that hasn’t been successful, arrests have been made, they have been closely monitored by the Community Policing Team, and stopped and searched to discourage them from carrying knives.
“We don’t see a lot of crime moving in and out of Harlow – it’s the same local people committing crime locally.”
Ch Insp Austin says Harlow is a safe place to live and work, with the number of anti-social behaviour incidents falling by more than 45% in the past 12 months, and the number of robberies dropping by 24%.
Confidence rates in the police in Harlow have also remained high for the past two years with 83% of local residents surveyed saying they believed officers were doing a good or excellent job in the area.
The force is collaborating with members of the Safer Harlow Partnership including Harlow Council and other community groups and public services to address other concerns raised by residents.
Ch Insp Austin added: “We know women and girls feel vulnerable when using the underpasses so we’re working with the council and funding has been secured to improve the CCTV. We’ve had great support as part of the Safer Harlow Partnership and from the Home Office to obtain that funding.
“We know the importance to the people of Harlow of seeing a policing presence around the town, so throughout the summer we will be strengthening our visibility, particularly on the 40 miles of cycle tracks around the town.
"The paths are really well used by local residents but there has been drug use on the cycle tracks, and we know criminals use them to move across town.”
Ch Insp Austin says he’s “proud” to serve Harlow and wants to encourage everyone locally to engage with officers.
“We will be visible, we are accessible and we’ll be holding regular events for the public to come and talk to us. I’m here to listen or people can contact their Community Policing Team.
“Harlow is a great place to live and work, and we’re working even harder to make it safer.”
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