Force criticised over major crime

SUFFOLK'S top policeman has admitted he is disappointed after inspectors deemed the force's ability to tackle major crime as “poor”.Her Majesty's Inspectorate Constabulary (HMIC) awarded Suffolk police good or fair ratings in 20 out of 23 categories during its 2005/06 assessment.

By Danielle Nuttall

SUFFOLK'S top policeman has admitted he is disappointed after inspectors deemed the force's ability to tackle major crime as “poor”.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate Constabulary (HMIC) awarded Suffolk police good or fair ratings in 20 out of 23 categories during its 2005/06 assessment.

But it outlined three areas of concern, including serious and organised crime and the force's “lack of resilience to deal with major crime”.


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Inspectors also considered Suffolk police's protection of vulnerable people “poor”, expressing concern with the workload of some public protection officers dealing with serious and sex offenders in the community.

Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said: “It must be recognised that this report is somewhat dated, as it deals with our performance up to the end of March this year. As such, we have already done a lot of work on the areas of improvement.

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“However, it is still disappointing to get 'poor' grades, particularly in the area of protecting vulnerable people where a huge amount of work and investment has already been put into supporting vulnerable people and the force either met or exceeded all but one of the criteria in this category.”

The inspection, which was carried out on all 43 forces in England and Wales, found seven areas in Suffolk which had improved in comparison to previous years. There were two areas where the situation had declined and a further 12 which were considered stable.

The report also highlighted the success of the constabulary's Suffolk First For You initiative, which aims to make Suffolk the safest place to live and ensure good quality service.

But in its handling of critical incidents and major crime, the HMIC said the force suffered from a lack of a dedicated Major Investigation Team, which led to staff being taken off frontline duties to investigate these areas.

Suffolk police has already submitted a proposal to the police authority to establish a Major Incident Team but this would have financial implications for the force.

The report recognised the force delivered good results in some areas of serious and organised crime, such as cheque and credit card fraud, but it was concerned about the limited surveillance and technological support resources.

Inspectors also recognised the newly-created Victim Care Centres had substantially enhanced the quality of care to vulnerable victims. However, the poor grading in this category was due to the workload of key public protection officers dealing with serious offenders.

The constabulary said there had been considerable investment in the way vulnerable people were dealt with and further work was now being carried out in relation to the management of sex offenders.

Mr McWhirter said: “This is a positive report, which underlines the commitment and good work of the officers and staff of Suffolk Constabulary to keeping their county safe.

“The vast majority of our work has been graded as good or fair and, importantly, it has also shown that our performance is either improving or stable in most of the categories. So we are continuing to build on first class performance of previous years.

“The report acknowledges our success in making Suffolk one of the safest counties in the country. However, we must not be complacent.

“The report is extremely useful. It has made some good points in highlighting areas of improvement. In many of these, we have already made the recommended changes as part of our commitment to continuously improve the service we offer local people.”

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