Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has welcomed police watchdogs’ latest findings as the force is rated ‘good’ for the way it tackles serious and organised crime.
Bedfordshire Police is leading the way across the region for tackling county drugs lines, modern slavery and gun crime. The grading and report from the police watchdog praises the force’s leadership, work with partners and activity to prevent organised crime as key aspects of its comprehensive plan to tackle these issues.
The report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) also gives a good grading to the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), which coordinates the response to serious and organised crime across the region.
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “This is tremendous recognition for the tireless work our officers, staff and partner organisations are doing to tackle the most serious criminality we face in Bedfordshire.
“I was clear when I became police and crime commissioner that I wanted our enforcement activity against organised crime gangs to be teamed with an outstanding prevention-based approach to crime reduction and community safety.
“This report is an excellent endorsement of this approach here in Bedfordshire – but I want to see us do even more of this activity and create a sustainable long term solution that will reduce organised crime and the corrosive impact it has on our communities.”
The report praises clear leadership, high awareness of issues among community officers and good analysis of organised crime threats as key pillars of the work underway in Bedfordshire.
Bedfordshire Police has a dedicated serious and organised crime team which works to improve the force’s response to issues, maintaining an ongoing action plan as well as delivering support and training to officers and partners who manage individual organised crime groups.
In the year to 31 May 2022, the force carried out 248 disruptions against organised crime gangs.
Almost three quarters of these were focused on enforcement, with the force having specialist teams including its Boson guns and gangs unit and Operation Costello committed to tackling serious offenders.
Illegal drugs worth at least £4.3 million were taken off the streets of the county last year, as the force seized almost 23kg of cocaine and heroin and 6,500 cannabis plants.
Costello has secured jail terms of more than 300 years for serious offenders, while the force’s Boson unit has taken more than 50 firearms off the streets since 2018.
But the force’s disruption work also included the highest number and proportion in the region of disruptions focused on prevention, such as engaging with communities to try and prevent people from becoming involved in organised crime in the first place.
The force has ring-fenced 67 PCs and 43 PCSOs, along with dedicated school officers, to support prevention work with children from as young as 10 years old.
Bedfordshire has pioneered the clear hold build concept through the Dallow Cares project, with police working in tandem with existing community partnerships to tackle the issues that matter most to local communities in the area.
Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst, who is the national lead for regional organised crime units, said: “Organised crime is the most significant national security threat we face in the UK.
“It is the driver of serious violence, exploits the vulnerable and the young and costs the economy billions of pounds every year. Serious and organised crime includes a range of serious criminality including people trafficking, gun crime and drugs trafficking, and has a direct link to young people being exploited and drawn into gangs and anti-social behaviour.
“I am incredibly proud to see this positive recognition of our approach here in Bedfordshire. We face significant challenges from this threat and with our partners have prioritised our response to criminals who engage in organised crime in order to protect our communities.
“I believe we have continued to make further progress since this inspection and we will not rest in our efforts to pursue and disrupt organised crime in our county.
“We are currently working with communities and partners to rid neighbourhoods who have historically suffered from organised crime through a collective enforcement and problem solving approach known as clear hold build.”
The report praises the force’s collaboration with the county’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit, which works with young people and their families at risk of getting involved in things like county lines, as well as the multi-agency Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation campaign.
Since the inspection, the force has more than doubled the amount of disruption activity it carries out against organised crime.
The independent police watchdog also rated ERSOU ‘good’ at tackling serious organised crime, highlighting its specialist capabilities and work pursuing some of the region’s most dangerous offenders.
In 2022 alone, ERSOU investigations led to nearly 450 years’ worth of jail sentences being handed to some of the region’s most dangerous criminals.
Assistant Chief Constable Simon Parkes, Head of ERSOU, said: “The positive rating we have received from the police inspectorate is a direct result of the tireless work taking place across our specialist teams who are unrelenting in their pursuit of organised criminals across eastern England.
“We work closely with the police forces in the east of England around the threat of organised crime and operate in tandem to ensure our communities are safe from dangerous offenders such as drugs and firearms dealers, fraudsters, cyber criminals and many more.
“The methods used by criminals to commit serious and organised crime are changing faster than ever – it’s up to us to get ahead. We will now be looking to build on the report’s findings to assist us to continue to evolve and become even more effective.
“I would like to thank all our teams for their commitment and dedication, and also colleagues within our constituent forces for their support and backing.”