Runnymede officer wins prestigious national award
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A Surrey officer has won a prestigious award for his innovative project to tackle criminal activity on a housing estate in Addlestone.
PC Sami Halepota, part of Runnymede’s Safer Neighbourhood Team, has won the Police Now and Student Officers category at the Tilley Awards 2021.
PC Halepota and Runnymede’s Safer Neighbourhood Team received the award for successfully tackling criminal peer group activity on a housing estate in Addlestone.
The area, which was known for anti-social behaviour (ASB) and drug use, saw a dramatic increase in reported incidents in December 2019 and January 2020.
These included groups of youths congregating in the area, drug abuse and criminal damage. After implementing a number of measures, including a Public Spaces Protection Order, that failed to solve the problem, the team decided to change tactic in February 2020.
Further enquiries revealed that much of the activity, rather than being ASB, was organised criminal peer group activity with risk of child criminal exploitation (CCE).
There appeared to be two criminal peer groups operating in the area; these were led by four adults, and comprised of around 20 young people, with the majority being under the age of 16.
In response to the findings, the team held multi-agency meetings between the council, housing services, children’s services and the police, with support given to both the victims and the youth offenders. The group leaders were targeted with warrants, arrests, convictions, Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) and Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWNs). Two group leaders were convicted of intent to supply.
The young people involved were supported and diverted through intervention, alongside children’s services. Enforcement was used as a last resort, and included warrants, stop and search, arrest, CBOs, and a tailored use of ASB legislation to restrict their criminal activity and safeguard them against CCE.
The operation led to safeguarding measures being put in place for the victims and a steady decline in activity relating to the group members. There have been no further crimes reported in relation to the groups since July. This has also led to around a 50% reduction in reports of anti-social behaviour on the estate.
This work was supported by Surrey Police’s Problem Solving Team, which was launched around a year ago and since then has made great strides in supporting Surrey Police colleagues to find solutions that help to prevent and reduce crime.
Chief Inspector Mark Offord of the Problem Solving Team, said: “This was a holistic problem-solving approach, delivered in partnership with other agencies but driven by PC Halepota when he was in his first year with us on the Police Now scheme.
“PC Halepota took the time to engage with everyone affected to identify the different factors behind their behaviour, enabling us to respond in a way that was tailored to the each individual’s needs.
“The operation has led to lasting change with a significant reduction in crime, and in delivering this, PC Halepota demonstrated a level of performance far beyond that which we would expect at his level of experience.
“We can all take immense pride in receiving the prestigious Tilley Award, and I’m sure we will see this problem-solving approach being adopted to help other Surrey communities with similar issues.”
PC Halepota joined Surrey Police through the Police Now graduate programme, and is now in his second year. PC Halepota was still in his first year of Police Now’s structured training programme while he was working on this initiative.
There are currently 46 Police Now officers in Force, and an additional 35 officers on the linked NDP (national detective programme), which is run by Police Now and Surrey Police.
PC Halepota said: “It was a pleasant surprise to get the email saying this operation had won the category! While it’s great for the safer neighbourhood team to get this recognition, importantly we have safeguarded vulnerable young people from CCE and put systems in place that will continue to do so in the long term.”
In September 2021, the winners of the five categories within the Tilley Awards will present their project at the National Problem Solving Conference to a panel of judges, who will then decide the overall winner. The overall winner will then be put forward for an international award.
If you see any suspicious activity in your area, please contact us on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Always call 999 in an emergency. Reporting this information can help to support operations, similar to this one, and result in the reduction and prevention of crime in your local area.