Joint approach to have ‘relentless focus’ on suppressing gang crime

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Eradicating the ‘evil’ of violent drug gangs can only be achieved through prevention and education, according to Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner.

Tim Passmore said enforcement was just one part of the answer to a ‘hugely complex’ problem, which public sector leaders hope to begin solving with a £500,000 investment in the next two years.

The money will fund a two-year pilot scheme designed to combat drug dealing and gang violence.

Public sector leaders had planned to contribute £40,000 from pooled business rates income to launch a multi-agency delivery team, but earlier this month proposed to pledge half-a-million because of a need to act quickly against the wider economic impact of gang related crime.

Almost 30 operations known as ‘county lines’ have been identified across Suffolk – using mobile phone networks to extend crime from cities into smaller towns and rural areas, often by exploiting children and vulnerable people.

Mr Passmore said: “This shows a multi-agency approach to a poison that has implications across the whole county.

“We will look to work with pupil referral units, schools and youth groups on prevention and education.

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“It may sound simple, but it’s about raising the aspirations of those from chaotic backgrounds, so they don’t feel a need to be part of a gang to have a sense of belonging.

“You have to give people hope there are jobs and opportunities when they grow older.

“In the short term, we have to catch the culprits and make sure they are punished – but it’s also the case that some offenders have been victims themselves.

“It’s a hugely complex issue, and to me it’s one of the most worrying trends in Suffolk at the moment.

“There is a tendency for people to see it as someone else’s problem, but if we don’t take action it will become everyone’s problem.

“There will be a relentless focus on cleaning up this evil, barbaric crime that wrecks lives and the reputation of a place.”

Most of the money will fund the multi-agency team’s aim to co-ordinate efforts to tackle drugs and related gang culture, and to conduct early-intervention and education work. Cash will also be set aside for positive activities and events, legal fees for powers including community protection notices, and part-funding a PCSO.

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