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Knife crime shows failure to teach young people right and wrong, says top police officer

PUBLISHED: 07:51 17 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:22 17 March 2019

Outgoing Suffolk Constabulary chief constable Gareth Wilson. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Outgoing Suffolk Constabulary chief constable Gareth Wilson. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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In his final column before he retires, Suffolk police chief constable Gareth Wilson reflects on a week which saw the best and the worst of the county - from the conviction of Tavis Spencer-Aitken's killers in Ipswich, to an awards ceremony recognising police officers' work.

The build up to this column has been a week in which we have seen both the best and worst of the world and the county has had to deal with.

Over the past 14 weeks, friends and family of Tavis have had to listen to the evidence presented in Ipswich Crown Court, including accounts of his last moments.

One of the most privileged roles I have had in policing is that of a senior investigating officer responsible for investigating around 100 murders, suspicious deaths and other serious crimes.

Even with that experience, I cannot start to even imagine what Tavis’ family and friends will be going through.

The verdicts in the crown court at the end of last week deliver justice but it also serves for us to also pause and reflect on how young people can get into a space where violence is seen as a norm and where the consequence of the senseless killing of such young and loved people is either not envisaged or discounted.

We have seen nationally the impact of knife crime on communities and I can assure that your police, Suffolk Constabulary, deals with this issue as an absolute priority.

However, as I have said before, I believe there is so much more that can be done by partners and communities to deal with the social inequalities and societal issues that have allowed violence to flourish.

I do feel that knife crime is a symptom of the failure by society to develop opportunities for our young people and also a failure to ensure they have an understanding of the basics of what is right and what is wrong.

How many more young lives will be lost or ruined before effective and sustainable solutions are found?

My heart sank on Friday when, like many, I woke to read of the atrocities at the mosques in New Zealand.

This is clearly an act driven by utter hatred and intolerance of difference and my thoughts go not only to the friends and families of those involved, but also Muslims around the world that must worry about their own safety.

I know my staff spoke with our local mosques on Friday to ensure we gave support. I have been invited to the mosques’ open days and also to breaking the fast during Ramadan and have been made so very welcome and know how much this outrage in New Zealand will have affected people around the world.

The local mosques do advertise open days and I would encourage you all to take advantage of the invitation. I know you will find the warmest of welcomes and an opportunity to answer any questions you may have.

I did say the last week has seen the worst but also the best of humanity and on Wednesday I had the pleasure of co-hosting my final awards ceremony alongside BBC Radio Suffolk breakfast show presenter and fellow EADT columnist Mark Murphy.

Co-incidentally, the day also saw Storm ‘Gareth’ disrupt much of the county’s activities, something that was not lost within many speakers’ commentary.

Once more, the evening reinforced with me the honour it has been to serve in such a wonderful organisation.

We heard and rewarded acts of bravery from within the police family and members of the public. We listened to Mark describe the dedication of so many staff to deliver policing to our communities. We rewarded long and meritorious service to officers, staff and volunteers and we rewarded professional service through presenting awards in memory of some of those who had dedicated their lives to public service.

One of those was in memory of Nishan, who I had the honour of working with in both Essex and Suffolk.

He died aged just 38 years whilst working for us and it was a pleasure to give an award to Vicky McParland for the work she does with the media in memory of such a wonderful colleague.

So, this is my last column before handing over the reins to Steve Jupp at the beginning of April, you will be left in the very safe hands of an organisation I have been proud to lead and in a county I am honoured to call my home.

I will be sure to continue helping Suffolk in any way I can but in the meantime – Steve, enjoy your stint in what has to be the best force in the country.

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