Cracking down on the one-man crimewaves

Police in Suffolk are today taking a proactive approach in their crackdown on criminals who repeatedly flout the law. Crime reporter JOSH WARWICK spoke to one of the county's detectives who is leading the initiative.

Josh Warwick

Police in Suffolk are today taking a proactive approach in their crackdown on criminals who repeatedly flout the law. Crime reporter JOSH WARWICK spoke to one of the county's detectives who is leading the initiative.

IT is estimated that just ten per cent of offenders are responsible for more than half of all serious crime.

Such is the frequency with which only a handful of individuals break the law that police are today actively trying to combat this disproportion and drive down law-breaking.

Officers in Suffolk employ a series of pragmatic tactics, which are reaping rewards and cutting the community's fear of crime.

The constabulary boasts a Prolific and Other Priority Offenders (POPO) team which closely monitors a select few of the county's most perpetual criminals.

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In Ipswich, a list of between 12 and 16 of the most infamous offenders is maintained, allowing officers to keep tabs and ensure that if they step out of line, they will face the penalty.

The initiative, which was launched nationally in 2004, has three strands - prevent and deter, catch and convict, and rehabilitate and resettle.

The primary aim of the initial prevention strand is to work intensively with those young offenders identified as being on the cusp of becoming POPOs and whose offending has escalated.

The catch and convict element tackles crime, while the rehabilitation element focuses on breaking the cycle of law-breaking.

The emphasis is on a collaborative approach, with police willingly assisted by prisons, the probation service and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Each individual is closely monitored and encouraged to engage with the help they are being given.

Suffolk police's detective inspector Dave Dring is involved in the POPO scheme.

He said: “We would rather these people turned their lives around, because ultimately it's about breaking the cycle.

“We want to give them a chance to not re-offend, but if they do we'll actively target them.”

Suffolk police's POPO team is chaired by Ipswich police station's crime manager, Mark Jepson, and regularly meets with the probation service.

DI Dring said: “The success of the scheme is reliant on us working hand in hand with the probation service.

“They have direct responsibility for offenders when they come out of prison, people on licence and people on drug testing programmes.”

Detailed analysis is conducted to determine which offenders are believed to be prolific. Numbers of convictions, arrests, history of drug abuse, and associated intelligence are all considered before police 'score' individuals.

Finally, the list of up to 16 people is produced.

DI Dring added: “We used to end up with about 60 names which was quite difficult to manage.

“We have reduced that down by taking into account their scoring but also actively debating on who we consider will cause the public the most harm.

“Probation may say a certain individual is not responding to a drug treatment programme and is spiralling out of control. That will be used to raise their profile.

“After that, we end up with a critical few of between 12 and 16, which is a manageable number.”

One of those on the POPO list is serial offender Darrell Lambert, earlier this year jailed for three years for a catalogue of serious driving offences which prompted a police chase.

Lambert, of Hawke Road, Ipswich, was jailed after being found guilty of dangerous driving for the fifth time and of driving while disqualified for the 11th time.

He had only been released from a two-year term in a young offenders' institute two days before the incident, on November 14 last year.

The frequency of the 21-year-old's offending meant that he was on the police's radar long before his liberty was restored.

“Darrell Lambert is a classic example,” said DI Dring.

“When individuals are coming out of prison, we will go and meet them at the gate to engage with them straight away.

“We want them to do one of two things - either stop offending of their own accord and take the help that's being offered or face the

consequences.

“A significant amount of work goes into preparing for the release of offenders. If drug abuse has been at the root cause, probation will straight away be looking to engage and offer help and support.”

n Should police have greater powers to deal with persistent offenders? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or you can e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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