JANUARY 2008 CONTENTS • Introduction • Safer Neighbourhood Awards • Connecting with emerging communities • Herts Crime levels falling faster than national levels • Choices and Consequences • Tesco Blackmailer sentenced Introduction Welcome to In the Loop – our regular update on news from your Constabulary. In this issue you will find a range of stories covering falling crime levels, initiatives to turn prolific criminals away from crime and the successful conclusion of last year’s Tesco blackmailing incidents. Also detailed is information on how you can nominate worthy people for the 2008 Hertfordshire Police Authority Safer Neighbourhood Awards – a chance to give recognition to people from all walks of life who help make our communities even safer. I hope you find this edition helpful - please use the feedback details at the end of this bulletin if you have any suggestions or comments to make. Frank Whiteley Chief Constable SAFER NEIGHBOURHOODS AWARDS 2008 Do you know someone who has helped to make Hertfordshire an even safer place? Why not nominate them for this year’s Safer Neighbourhoods Awards? Hertfordshire Police Authority is looking for nominations in four categories – two for local people living or working in the county, and two for local officers. There will be heats in all 10 district/boroughs with the winners from each category going forward to the county finals in June 2008. The winning police officers will also be entered as Hertfordshire’s nominations for the national Jane’s Police Review Awards. The categories are: Community Safety Award (for people who have made an outstanding contribution towards community safety) HertsWatch Award (for outstanding contributions to Neighbourhood and other Watch schemes in the county) Police Community Support Officer of the Year Neighbourhood Police Officer of the Year Gary Barnett receiving his Community Safety Award for the Three Rivers District from Police Authority Chairman Ian Laidlaw-Dickson at the 2007 Safer Neighbourhoods Awards ceremony. Chair of Hertfordshire Police Authority, Ian Laidlaw-Dickson, said: “There is so much good work going on in the county and we want to publicly recognise and acknowledge the selfless contribution made by members of the public and the often unsung work undertaken by our local Neighbourhood Policing Teams.” If you know someone who you’d like to nominate, you can get nominations and more information online at www.herts-police-authority.org.uk or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01992 55 66 00 Closing date for nominations is 28 March 2008 CONNECTING WITH EMERGING COMMUNITIES With the number of Polish residents increasing across the county, the Constabulary has recently organised three multi-agency workshops to gain a better understanding of the needs of this emerging community. The meetings, which form part of the Safer Neighbourhood Strategy, were held in Royston, Watford and Hatfield and were facilitated by Inspector Gary Atkinson from the Diversity Unit and Inspector Paul Lawrence from Community Safety and Crime Reduction. A wide range of agencies were also in attendance to give advice and support on issues such as employment, accommodation, schooling, language learning and safety and each event was assisted by an interpreter. Gary Atkinson commented: “The meetings were a great success and all the agencies that contributed found the events to be extremely beneficial and worthwhile. This initiative is enabling all our partners to co- ordinate their approach in supporting the Polish community and establish links and contacts with them.” Paul Lawrence said: “It was clear from our scoping exercise that there was very limited engagement with the Polish Community by the Constabulary so we decided to grasp the nettle and organise these events. The Polish community was overwhelmed by the support and assistance on offer and expressed their gratitude to the force for setting up these meetings.” Gary added: “The influence of migration in the UK means that the county’s demographics are changing all the time. With this come many policing challenges as each group is different and bring their own unique needs. Many of these new and emerging communities will have had very different experiences of the police in their own countries and many will not be familiar this county’s policing style.” “The key to gaining the trust and confidence of these communities is for our Neighbourhood Teams to have a good understanding of their profiles and to proactively seek to undertake engagement opportunities. By offering these communities support and a willingness to listen to their needs, we aim to inspire trust and confidence in the Constabulary.” Organisations represented included the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the County Council, the relevant district or borough council, library services, churches, Primary Care Trusts, Social Security, Education, the police and fire and rescue. HERTFORDSHIRE CRIME FALLING QUICKER THAN NATIONAL LEVELS National crime statistics released by the Home Office in January show that overall recorded crime fell between July and September 2007 compared with same period the previous year. Hertfordshire statistics for the same period showed an even bigger drop in crime in the county - 13% compared to the national 9%. In Hertfordshire over the three month period most serious violence against the person fell by 36% (16% nationally), sexual offences fell by 23% (9% nationally) and robbery fell by 24% (17% nationally). Encouragingly, vehicle crimes, which had increased in the previous months in Hertfordshire, are now showing a 6% decrease. One crime category did increase: drug offences increased by 22% in Herts and 21% nationally, reflecting increased police activity targeting drug dealers and users. It is well known that drugs dealing fuels other crimes and that tackling drugs can help to positively reduce crime. Ian Laidlaw-Dickson, Chair of Herts Police Authority said: "I am pleased once again to see these very encouraging reductions in crime, which build on overall reductions in crime in the preceding years. This helps back our belief that Hertfordshire continues to be one of the safest counties in the country.” Chief Constable Frank Whiteley said: “ Whilst I’m particularly pleased with the falls in overall crime, robbery and violence which are helping to make Hertfordshire an even safer county, reflecting some of the excellent work being carried out by Constabulary officers, staff and our partners, we are not complacent and would like to see further reductions across the county.” Percentage Change in Numbers of Recorded Crimes July - September 2007 against July - September 2006 National 9- Hertfordshire Total Recorded Crime 13- Drug Offences 21 22 Sexual Offences 9- 23- Other Offences Aginst the Person - With No Injury 6- 20- Other Offences Aginst the Person - With Injury 11- 21- Most Serious Violence Against the Person 16- 36- Robbery 17- 24- Other Theft 6- 11- Offences Against Vehicles 12- 6- Other Burglary 8- 15- Domestic Burglary 8- 3- Criminal Damage 11- 16- -40 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES A new project which aims to rehabilitate the county’s most prolific offenders has launched in Hertfordshire and is already showing signs of success. Launched in April 2007, the Choices and Consequences (C2) project is supported by all partner agencies in the Criminal Justice system. Working closely with the Hertfordshire Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Hertfordshire Constabulary officers identify suitable candidates and seek to attract them to the project by selling the benefits of a life free from crime. They must demonstrate their desire to rehabilitate by admitting all past offences, and are then assessed by the Probation Service. Ultimately, the courts decide - if suitable, their sentence is deferred for up to six months whilst they undertake an extensive rehabilitation regime that may include drug treatment, life skills training, education and employment. Detective Inspector Matt Bonner from the Specialist Interview Unit, which conducts the investigative process to identify appropriate offenders, commented: “The project’s approach is somewhat out of the ordinary, so I’m really pleased with the way all the agencies have gelled together to form a team. The willingness of the county’s CPS lawyers to adapt their usual practices has been crucial to the success of the programme so far, and the role of the probation service in delivering the rehabilitation programme has been equally important. The role of each partner is vital to the success of the scheme and I‘m confident that together we can all build on an excellent start.” Charles Ingham, Head of Hertfordshire Crown Prosecution Service supports the project’s partnership approach: “The C2 project is an excellent example of collaborative working between the police and the CPS in Hertfordshire, which will help to solve crimes and deal with offending in an imaginative and constructive manner.” Since inception, six prolific offenders have been nominated, with two now subject to deferred sentences and a third currently being assessed. Whilst offenders are effectively offered a chance for a life free from criminality without having to serve a prison sentence, not all will be able to sustain the crime-free life that is necessary. If they demonstrate that they are not serious in their efforts, they will quickly be put back before the court to be sentenced in a more traditional manner. To date, two individuals have received custodial sentences having breached the project’s strict rules. The final defendant is in custody awaiting sentence having also failed. It is this strict enforcement which makes the project such an attractive scheme for all concerned. “The confidence of the public is very important to all agencies involved in C2 and cannot in anyway be undervalued,” said Detective Superintendent Jane Swinburne, who leads the project. “That’s why we have so many measures to ensure our public are informed on the status of the case every step of the way. “So far, victims have been largely supportive of the project. They tend to understand that if a prolific offender can be turned away from a life of crime then it is worthwhile making that effort. Many are also comforted by the fact that if an offender is simply trying to use the scheme without a genuine desire to rehabilitate, they will quickly be identified and are likely to end up serving a lengthy custodial sentence instead.” Jane concluded: “Although it’s clearly early days for the project, the indications are that it will succeed in making Hertfordshire an even safer place to live by turning some of the most prolific offenders away from a life of crime.” TESCO BLACKMAILER SENTENCED AT CROWN COURT A determined blackmailer who sent more than 75 hoax letters threatening to bomb Tesco superstores across the country last summer, has been sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment. CCTV footage captured of Philip McHugh in Bolton on 21st July 2007 St Albans Crown Court was told how Philip McHugh, 52, of Milton Avenue, Clitheroe made cash demands and also sent letters threatening to contaminate products to a number of stores during a campaign that begun in spring 2007 and climaxed with his arrest in Clitheroe, Lancashire on July 23. In November 2007 he pleaded guilty to three counts of blackmail and two counts of bomb-hoaxing. Led by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Major Crime Task Force (now the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit), the extortion investigation involved officers from a number of police forces together with other law enforcement agencies including the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Described as one of the most fast-moving and largest inquiries of its kind ever to be undertaken in Hertfordshire, officers worked closely with Tesco and SOCA using hi-tech police tactics to identify McHugh. Throughout the entire operation, customer and staff safety was paramount to both the Constabulary and Tesco. McHugh sent the threatening hoax letters to a number of stores, which, faced with a genuine safety threat to customers and staff, were forced to close on Saturday July 14. A total of 14 stores closed their doors whilst staff and police searched for suspect devices. These include Clitheroe, Bury St Edmunds, Port Talbot, Kircaldy, Ashby De La Zouche, Grimsby and Glasgow. Hertfordshire Detective Chief Inspector Bill Jephson, who led the inquiry is based with the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, said: “This was a large-scale, complex and challenging investigation involving a considerable number of police forces and specialist agencies. It was through their dedication, skill and tenacity that we were able to trace and arrest the offender without injury or harm being caused to anyone.” He added: “The response in this case reflects how seriously blackmail is taken and that companies like Tesco will not be held to ransom.” Tesco's Retail and Logistics Director, David Potts commented: “I would firstly like to thank the authorities for their efficient handling of this investigation that has resulted in bringing this individual to justice. I hope this case goes some way to reassure everybody that any threat we face is taken extremely seriously and that we have robust procedures in place to ensure public and staff safety which remains our top priority.” Patrick Fields, Special Casework Lawyer for CPS Hertfordshire who was involved with the case from an early stage and prosecuted the case at court said –“The Crown Prosecution Service is pleased that the Police contacted us at an early stage. This is yet another case demonstrating good joint working between the Police and CPS with a satisfactory conclusion.” Feedback If you have any comments on information you would like to see on future bulletins please contact email@example.com.