New assistant chief constable on crime, public confidence and victim support
PUBLISHED: 16:52 25 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:52 25 April 2020
Suffolk’s new assistant chief constable has spoken about the importance of putting victims at the heart of criminal justice and making the presence of police felt across the county.
Rob Jones, who joins Suffolk Constabulary next month, began his policing career with the Met in 1995 – first in Battersea before taking on operational roles in Lambeth, Hackney, Newham, Lewisham and Central London.
His work also helped inform Scotland Yard’s learning from the London bombings and included a spell as staff officer to previous Commissioner of the Met.
The last decade focused more on public order – with Gold Command for the London Bridge terrorist incident and with Silver Command for Trooping the Colour on the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Having grown up in Norfolk and lived in Colchester for the last 20 years, Mr Jones is no stranger to the region and had been looking for an opportunity to take on a new challenge outside the capital.
“A big attraction of Suffolk is how local police officers can get to know the communities they police over a period of time,” he said.
“Community intelligence is key to seeing and solving problems.”
As Newham commander, his long-term priorities included the reduction of violent crime and gang related activity. In Suffolk, he will see county lines drug distribution from the other side.
A number of lines have emerged from East London and encouraged local ‘post code’ gangs to branch out and control drug supply in areas outside the capital.
“One of the biggest changes has been our understanding of how criminal networks use vulnerable young men – sometimes targeting them to be brought in,” he said.
“Another big issue is how intrinsically linked activity is to drug supply. I’m determined to find out the impact of drugs on market towns – particularly by recreational users who don’t understand the harm it causes, or the exploitation behind it.”
Last week, figures showed the use of knives in serious offences increased 10% last year and by 84% since 2010 in Suffolk.
Mr Jones said there was still a cohort of young men who felt safer carrying a knife, despite their chances of being hurt becoming higher by doing so.
He said an effective education programme, in which police play a part, but where parents understand changes in behaviour, was fundamental to combating knife crime.
“Surrender bins and opportunities to put down knives also have a part to play, but need to be done in a controlled way,” he added.
“Finally, there’s the issue of knives becoming fashionable, like really nasty ‘zombie’ knives being available online. We need to be looking at the manufacturing and distribution of these weapons.”
Mr Jones endorses the appropriate use of stop-and-search and Section 60 orders giving police the power to search people in a designated area – sometimes used after stabbings to find weapons and prevent reprisal.
“I have to say I’m an advocate of intelligence-led stop-and-search, and the proactive use of section 60 in an intelligence-led way.”
In just two years in Newham, Mr Jones helped turn the borough from being rated the worst to second-best in London for how victims felt treated by police.
In January, Suffolk was ranked in the bottom five forces for the percentage of people who have confidence in the police overall.
Mr Jones said: “It’s important to distinguish public confidence – an issue we urgently need to address – as often not being driven by contact with the police, but by how safe people feel.
“Victim satisfaction is about how people feel when they’ve been a victim of crime.
“This is broken down into two parts; the quality and care of interaction of the officer who initially deals with them, by understanding their needs and explaining the process, and the quality of the follow-up interaction, how it’s investigated, whether it goes to court, and keeping in touch with the victim.
“There’s a real danger that victims, who are already upset, get a good initial service but don’t understand why a decision has been made a couple of months down the line.
“Some of the frustration comes when people don’t hear what’s happening, or don’t see the police.
“Suffolk is a big area which doesn’t as many officers as other forces, so making our presence felt is really important.
“I’m interested to find out how shared police and fire buildings are working, and whether they feel approachable or removed from people. I’ll be going to find out for myself, rather than make an assumption.”
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