Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Festus Akinbusoye has welcomed police figures that show illegal drugs worth at least £4.3 million were taken off the streets of the county last year.
New figures from the force show Bedfordshire Police seized almost 23 kilos of cocaine and heroin and 6,500 cannabis plants over the past 12 months.
The amount of cocaine and heroin seized is around five times as much as was seized over the previous year.
Tackling drug related serious organised crime was one of Mr Akinbusoye’s key pledges in his blueprint to improve policing in Bedfordshire.
The Commissioner has also ensured Bedfordshire Police meets its ambitious recruitment targets as well as investing in its Professional Standards Department to improve things like internal investigations and vetting.
“I welcome these latest results from the force and would like to reiterate that this is just a fraction of what we can achieve if given funding that reflects our county’s demand,” Mr Akinbusoye said.
“Bedfordshire faces huge pressure from things like gangs, county lines and organised crime. One-off grants to fund the work of our Boson and Costello teams has helped – and we have delivered fantastic results like these in return.
“I will not let up in my efforts to make our government see that the current police funding formula simply does not work for a county like Bedfordshire and the complex challenges we face, which is why I am so pleased that ministers have announced they will start consulting on this issue this year.
“In the absence of this wider reform, I will be increasing the police precept by 28 pence per week and at a level below inflation. This will allow Bedfordshire Police to continue to address those clear concerns from our communities, which is to see even more officers on the streets – and even more drugs and dealers out of our communities.”
The latest success for Bedfordshire Police saw the force’s Boson guns and gangs team secure charges for possession with intent to supply both crack cocaine and heroin against two men in their 30s from Bedford.
It follows officers recovering a large amount of suspected Class A drugs from a vehicle that was stopped in the town on Wednesday (1 February).
Detective Chief Inspector Dani Bailey, Bedfordshire Police’s drugs lead, said: “These results are testament to the major focus we have across our organisation on tackling serious and organised crime.
“From specialist units to the community teams who are out on patrol in neighbourhoods across the county every single day – every officer and member of staff is determined to tackle the drugs gangs which drive much of the violence and exploitation we see across the county.
“Enforcement is just one piece of the puzzle, which is why we are working with other agencies like public health and drug and alcohol services on a comprehensive plan to combat drugs and make all of our communities safer.”
One of the key priorities outlined by the PCC was to support a more visible policing presence. Bedfordshire Police is now on course to have its highest number of police officers at 1,456 and surpass the target set out in the national Uplift recruitment programme.
This is in addition to creating the capacity to invest in dedicated teams like victim engagement officers, who provide specialist support to victims of crime, as well as Bedfordshire Police’s rural crime team.
A rise in the council tax police precept last year has also allowed for further investment in the force’s Professional Standards Department, which is responsible for vetting police officers and staff, as well as running misconduct investigations.
For the financial year 2023/24, the PCC is proposing to increase the police precept by £15 a year for an average Band D property, equivalent to about 28 pence a week.
This is due to be discussed at the next Police and Crime Panel, which will take place at Bedford Borough Hall on Tuesday (7 February) at 6.30pm.