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On the road with police team disrupting serious and organised crime

The Operation Sentinel South team. Left to right: Pc Mina Fernandez, Pc John Wood, Sgt Mike Moon, Pc James Moughton, Pc Tim Barrell and Pc Dan Newson (Pc Criag May, investigator, not pictured)  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

The Operation Sentinel South team. Left to right: Pc Mina Fernandez, Pc John Wood, Sgt Mike Moon, Pc James Moughton, Pc Tim Barrell and Pc Dan Newson (Pc Criag May, investigator, not pictured) Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

Victoria Pertusa

A mobile team of police officers, dedicated to disrupting serious and organised crime, have demonstrated their front-foot approach to guarding Suffolk’s road network.

Operation Sentinel's Pc Mina Fernandez and Pc Dan Newson check a driver's documents at the roadside  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAOperation Sentinel's Pc Mina Fernandez and Pc Dan Newson check a driver's documents at the roadside Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

Since being launched last May, the county's three Operation Sentinel units have stopped more than 1,000 vehicles and more than 200 arrests for offences including drug dealing, handling stolen goods and weapons possession.

Operation Sentinel's East team gathers before setting off on the road  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAOperation Sentinel's East team gathers before setting off on the road Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

The three teams, based in the South (established last May), East and West areas (established last September), are each made up of one sergeant and six constables, and have been funded by the police and crime commissioner's (PCC) decision to raise the council tax precept.

Pc Mina Fernandez talking to a driver following a traffic stop in Ipswich  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAPc Mina Fernandez talking to a driver following a traffic stop in Ipswich Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

We joined the South team to see how officers are using the widest range of available proactive policing tactics, as well as utilising Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to identify and intercept criminals, while improving public confidence through visibility.

Operation Sentinel's Pc Mina Fernandez, Pc John Wood and Pc James Moughton  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAOperation Sentinel's Pc Mina Fernandez, Pc John Wood and Pc James Moughton Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

Sgt Mike Moon said his team's focus was not on traffic enforcement, but to disrupt drug dealing, human trafficking and exploitation, recidivist criminals and even sex offenders using the road network.

Operation Sentinel's Pc Tim Barrell and Pc John Wood execute a warrant for the arrest of a man on suspicion of breaching a court order imposed in Leeds  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAOperation Sentinel's Pc Tim Barrell and Pc John Wood execute a warrant for the arrest of a man on suspicion of breaching a court order imposed in Leeds Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

"Every day, we've got a team on duty in the county, and we've been quite successful so far, seizing significant quantities of drugs.

Operation Sentinel's Sgt Mike Moon  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAOperation Sentinel's Sgt Mike Moon Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

"We utilise ANPR, but that's not the sum total of what we're about. We've got instinctive, proactive officers, running about 30 stop-searches a month, with proper grounds to do so. These aren't arbitrary stops - they're focused.

A car seized in Kelly Road, Ipswich, for being driven without insurance  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAA car seized in Kelly Road, Ipswich, for being driven without insurance Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

"We strive to create a gold standard quality of evidential product, which maximises our chance of conviction in the courts.

Sgt Mike Moon briefing the Operation Sentinel South team  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSASgt Mike Moon briefing the Operation Sentinel South team Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

"These officers have been chosen for their ability. Policing isn't a simple business these days. It's highly complex and demanding.

Operation Sentinel's marked BMW 330 police cars  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAOperation Sentinel's marked BMW 330 police cars Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

"A seemingly simple vehicle stop could lead to two or three weeks' investigation for an individual."

Operation Sentinel  Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAOperation Sentinel Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

Within about half-an-hour of joining PCs Tim Barrell and John Wood on the road, a passenger in a white Ford Transit had been arrested off Sproughton Road on suspicion of breaching a court order imposed in Leeds.

Soon afterwards, PCs Mina Fernandez and Dan Newson had seized a Citroën Xsara being driven by 26-year-old Ipswich man without a licence or insurance.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: "We were confident that the Sentinel team, supported by appropriate technology, would pay dividends and results so far show the constabulary is definitely on the front-foot when it comes to cracking down on organised criminal activity.

"We need to remember, Suffolk is one of the safest counties in the country, but that's not to say there aren't challenges ahead and that is why, last year, I made the decision to increase the policing element of the council tax by the maximum possible.

"Last year's policing precept has enabled the chief constable to increase the police establishment to form these proactive Sentinel teams to help fight organised crime right across the county.

"Operation Sentinel provides the extra officers on our roads that we need. It won't change everything but this is a major step-change in the fight against crime in our communities and I welcome this pre-emptive approach."

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