Community reassured that Ipswich is still a safe place to live after drug deaths, gun arrests and discovery of dead body

The scene of police activity on St Matthew's Street, Ipswich - January 6

The scene of police activity on St Matthew's Street, Ipswich - January 6 - Credit: Lucy taylor

Dangerous drugs, unexplained deaths and armed police making arrests in full view of the public. It has certainly not been a Happy New Year for Ipswich. Edmund Crosthwaite talks to Superintendent Louisa Pepper about why the region is still a safe place to live.

Superintendent Louise Pepper, the police commander for the Ipswich area.

Superintendent Louise Pepper, the police commander for the Ipswich area. - Credit: Su Anderson

Serious incidents, usually unheard of in Suffolk, have in recent weeks grabbed national headlines.

Since Christmas Eve, the town has seen two deaths from the red Superman Ecstasy tablets containing the dangerous chemical PMMA, armed police sent to two suspected firearms offences and an unexplained death behind a town-centre Morrisons.

As a result Superintendent Louisa Pepper, the police commander for the Ipswich area, has now sought to reassure residents that the town is still a safe place to live, claiming the recent incidents all took place “in a tiny geographical pocket”.

Speaking yesterday, she added: “We have had a number of incidents that are at the more serious end of things.

“The police and its partners have responded very positively and there are no links between them.

“It is coincidence that a particular area has had a number of incidents.”

The pocket described by Supt Pepper covers an area to the north and west of the town centre - encompassing where 400 Superman Ecstasy pills were found near Norwich Road, the arrest of a 17-year-old in connection with firearms offences in St Matthew’s Street and the stopping of a car by armed police in St Margaret’s Street (again on suspicion of firearms offences). St Matthew’s Street was back in the news again this weekend following the discovery of a man’s body on Saturday evening.

Supt Pepper said the force’s priority continued to be one of ensuring public safety.

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“We are doing more patrols in the area and working with residents and business owners to provide reassurance.

“It is about listening to the needs of the community.”

Asked if Ipswich being regarded as a generally safe place to live made the presence of armed police on the streets more shocking to residents, Supt Pepper argued it should put peoples’ minds at rest.

She added: “Suffolk is a safe place to live. It is where we bring our children up and shop and live our lives.

“I think the public should feel reassured that if something happens Suffolk police respond appropriately and deal with any incidents professionally and swiftly.

“When incidents are reported to police we respond with the right response swiftly to make sure whatever threat we are faced with, not only are the public kept safe but my officers are kept safe.”

Supt Pepper said that while the presence of armed police at incidents potentially involving guns would concern the public, such things are “not normal business” and urged those still concerned about recent incidents to speak to community-based officers.

“We do everything we can to reassure people. Public safety is a priority for us.

“Contact your safer neighbourhood team (Central Ipswich) and they will be able to listen and understand the issues raised appropriately.

She added: “We work with the public and we can only police with their consent. We haven’t lost that.”

Supt Pepper also addressed the spotlight thrown on Ipswich following deaths linked to the Superman pills in the town. Since a large quantity of the drugs were recovered on January 6, there have been no further deaths or illnesses in the region - proof that the police’s response is working, Supt Pepper said.

“For me that’s positive. We work quite closely in the town centre with the pubs and clubs.

“The fact we have had no further reports about people taking it is really positive.”

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, also offered his reassurance that there was no link between any of the incidents.

“There has been a spate of issues in Ipswich over recent weeks but I’d like to assure everyone living and working in the town, these are separate, unrelated incidents and not to be unduly concerned,” Mr Passmore said.

“Suffolk is a very safe county. Our most recent crime survey found that 92% of people living in the county feel safe and this should be a great reassurance to us all.”

“I’d like to reiterate, public safety is the top priority.”

Dark incidents are a run of bad luck, says town’s MP

Ipswich’s MP has said he doesn’t believe the recent run of “bad incidents” will reflect badly on the town.

Like Supt Louisa Pepper, Ben Gummer said the timing of the recent serious crimes was just unfortunate.

And he applauded the police and public health services for their response to the rogue Ecstasy deaths by offering ways for people to hand in pills without fear of recrimination.

“Clearly it is concerning but people should be aware that crime has been falling in Ipswich over the last few years considerably,” Mr Gummer said.

“I’d rather have no crime at all but these incidents should be seen in that context.”

Mr Gummer said within a few weeks he thought Ipswich’s association with the drug deaths would pass. I can’t think people are going to be associating this with Ipswich in a few weeks time.

“It’s just bad luck it has shown up here rather than somewhere else.

“I’ve spoken to the police and crime commissioner (Tim Passmore) recently. The police are doing a great job and I’m sure they will continue to do so.”

Asked if Suffolk’s reputation as a safe place made the crimes seem more concerning, he said: “Completely. It’s one of the safest counties in the country and crime is rigorously reported on.

“I’m very sad for those who have died as a result of the contaminated drugs and we should be grateful it hasn’t happened more often like in other parts of the country where armed police are a more regular sight.”