Avon and Somerset Police have gone back to basics in the fight against street based violent crime, using part of a £660k Home Office fund for insight led patrols in areas of high demand.
Since June 2021 additional foot patrols have seen officers engaging with the public when and where violent crime is likely to occur. Initial figures indicate these targeted patrols have brought about significant decreases in crime and anti-social behaviour.
Street based Violence Against the Person* offences have reduced by approximately 10% in the identified locations during this period, with a 17% reduction in the most violent offences, including GBH and above. There have been 99 fewer violent crimes committed in these areas during this time than would usually occur.
Avon and Somerset Police’s lead for serious violence Superintendent James Raphael said: “We know that high visibility policing is what the public want from us. Providing a regular presence in locations where crime often takes place is invaluable, not only in reducing crime but also helping people to feel safe.”
“It’s not always possible for us to resource this type of activity, so the extra funding from the Home Office is hugely welcome and is already making a big difference. We’ve had shopkeepers telling us that the anti-social behaviour and problems they have suffered outside their shops has disappeared completely.
“As well as the visible reassurance these patrols offer to the community, having officers in the right place at the right time means we have been able to break up fights before they have escalated, prevented weapons from being used and taken drugs off the streets.”
The areas prioritised for the additional patrols have been identified through analysis of data from the past five years and from listening to local communities. There are 20 ‘hotspot’ areas across the force which correlate to areas with a large number of licensed premises. In addition there are 52 local ‘hotspots’ which are also benefitting from increased high visibility patrols, with officers from the local neighbourhood police teams supporting this work.
Superintendent Raphael added: “Whilst the high visibility patrols address the symptoms of violent crime, it’s important to note that we also have longer term problem solving plans in place with our partners to address the causes. We cannot ignore the link between licensed premises and alcohol consumption and the levels of crime which occur in these areas, which is where our neighbourhood policing problem solving teams really add value.
“The patrols are just one aspect in our approach to tackling serious violence. We work closely with our partners in local authorities and other sectors, as well as with our Violence Reduction Units, to deliver early intervention and diversionary work to young and vulnerable people at risk of being groomed into County Lines. Our specially trained PCSOs and School Link Officers also deliver targeted education to young people in schools and youth settings on a whole host of topics from knife crime through to exploitation.
“Lastly, I must stress that there is no evidence that this approach is simply moving crime into other locations. The patrols seem to have the effect of reducing crime in neighbouring streets as well.”
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford said: “I whole-heartedly welcome the increase in high visibility patrols that this new Home Office funding has made possible. I believe that proactive policing is the bedrock upon which modern policing was built and I know that local people will feel reassured by the presence of officers in high demand areas.
“High visibility policing is a priority for me and my goal as the new Police and Crime Commissioner is to ensure that officers are out on the streets, interacting with the community and fighting crime.”
Highlights to date
In Bristol, officers have prevented disorder in the Bear Pit by dispersing large groups gathering and stopping a fight, resulting in one man who was wanted on warrant being arrested. They also supported a shop keeper in Stokes Croft who had just put the phone down having called 999 about a drunk man in the shop causing a disturbance. Officers entered the shop as part of their patrol and were able to deal with the disorder on the spot.
In the Lyde Green area of South Gloucestershire, officers on patrol were able to quickly respond when a member of the public phoned police about two teenage boys they thought they had seen carrying knives in a basketball court. The officers were in the right place at the right time and following a foot chase, detained one of the boys who was in possession of a zombie knife. He has now been charged with possession of a bladed article.
In Bath officers on patrol have de-escalated a number of incidents around licensed premises that could have led to fights, as well as helping a vulnerable person in distress on Dorchester Street. They have arrested people for theft offences and were able to search for and locate a suspect who had fled the scene following a hate crime on Lansdown Road. Local residents and businesses have told the officers who have engaged with them that they have noticed the extra patrols and that it’s made them feel safer.
In Weston-super-Mare, officers on patrol have dispersed people who were persistently drinking alcohol in the street around the Alexander Parade and Regent Street loop, and prevented a volatile situation from escalating by arresting a man who was acting aggressively towards his partner. Patrolling officers have also spotted at least three people who were wanted on warrant, who have been arrested and put before the court.
In Bridgwater, officers on foot patrol spoke to a local worker who provided information about a known local drug user occupying a public toilet in Blake Gardens for a significant amount of time. The officers requested back up and found two men in the toilet in possession of suspected class A drugs, which they said they had bought from a teenage boy. Using their local knowledge and with the support of colleagues from Operation Remedy, the officers located the boy in a nearby wooded area, who was in possession of a large amount of cash and suspected class A drugs. The boy was arrested and has since been released under investigation.
Finally, in Frome, officers patrolling Victoria Park identified and stopped three people in possession of Class B drugs and a number of Section 34 Dispersal Orders have been put in place over the summer months to help ease problems with anti-social behaviour.
*Violence Against the Person includes a range of offences from malicious communications up to homicide, but for this operation only includes street based offences such as common assault, GBH, ABH, knife crime and robbery offences.