More officers will help tackle Suffolk crime, says policing minister
- Credit: Denise Bradley
The policing minister said more officers on the streets will help Suffolk face its crime challenges as the government looks to get tough on county lines drug dealing and knife crime.
Kit Malthouse visited Ipswich on Thursday to meet with officers from Suffolk Constabulary and promote a Home Office campaign to recruit people from all backgrounds to join the police.
The police uplift programme has seen 107 new officers recruited by Suffolk police, with a target of 72 more by March 2023.
Suffolk Constabulary has also applied for an extra 20 officers, which could take the force to around 1,450 officers at the end of the next financial year, the county's police and crime commissioner said.
Mr Malthouse, who is MP for North West Hampshire, said having more police officers will help tackle Ipswich - and Suffolk's - crime issues.
He said: "Ipswich faces its challenges. It's a town that's changed a lot over the last decade. Big new developments, it's been a big success in many ways economically.
"But that also brings with it other problems like, for example, drug dealers, and so giving the cops more capacity to be reactive and proactive as well as giving them the technology they need to do the work that's required, particularly on drug dealing, we think is critical.
"As a result, you've seen big falls in certain crime types across the county, I think burglary is down very significantly, the number of county lines operating in the county have been reduced very significantly and these are all part of a cocktail of success that we need to enhance and improve over the next few years and having more police officers will help us do that."
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Mr Malthouse said he is keen to improve diversity in forces to make a "big change" in UK policing.
"A key plank of the uplift programme is improving the diversity of the police. We want more female police officers and more officers from a minority background," he said.
"We are specifically angling our advertising campaign towards those groups and encouraging them to come forward and be part of this big change in UK policing.
"Historically, policing has been dominated by men and we think that's been changing over the past 10 years but it needs to accelerate."
He added there will be more police on the streets than a decade ago by the end of the uplift programme as the government sets its sights on tackling county lines drug dealing and knife crime.
Mr Malthouse said: "By the time we get to the end of the programme, we'll have more police officers than we did 10 years ago. We would have expanded it very significantly.
"But 10 years ago, we had to make some difficult decisions because of the financial situation of the country. We could just not afford everything that we wanted to do. But thank God we did make those decisions because we were then able to get through a pandemic.
"We're now in a different era where crime has changed. We have seen over the last two or three years certain crimes, like county lines drug dealing, rise.
"So when the prime minister came to office, he was very clear that having been a crime-fighting mayor in London - and I helped him with that - he wanted to be a crime-fighting prime minister as well.
"So now you see this uplift as well as funding the police to a very significant degree now but focusing very much on these issues of county lines, knife crime and violence, and neighbourhood crime where we are winning.
"Numbers are down, the mission has been successful, it's not complete, but we're getting there."
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, said he enjoyed a "productive discussion" on crime prevention and anti-social behaviour with Mr Malthouse.
He said: "We have seen a spat of anti-social behaviour and vandalism affecting local independent businesses, so I wanted to talk to the minister about preventing crime in the town centre.
"When I speak to residents, one of the main comments I get is that they want to see more uniformed officers on the street.
"Through the national police uplift programme, the government is recruiting 20,000 police officers in England and Wales to deliver more police officers and increase visibility.
"I also took the Minister to Dial Lane, where we have sadly seen some acts of vandalism affecting shops, and even the brand new Big Hoot owl.
"We discussed concerns of local shop owners here, particularly the need for CCTV in the area to reduce anti-social behaviour."
Speaking of Mr Malthouse's visit, Tim Passmore, Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, said: "I'm very pleased he's here.
"We've had an opportunity to have a discussion about the funding formula and extra resources for Suffolk.
"Clearly we're very pleased about the results of operation uplift here in Suffolk. We've already got 107 extra officers and this current financial year we'll be getting an extra 72 - that's central government funding from the Home Office but we've also just applied for an extra 20 as well and I believe that's been accepted."