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Your Interview: Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett
6:40pm Friday 12th October 2012 in News
In our new weekly feature your Interview, we give you, our readers, the chance to ask key figures across Sussex the questions you want answered. This week Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett answers your questions.
Question: How do you feel about carrying out Mike Weatherley’s and the Government’s dirty work by arresting those without a home when in an empty residential property?
Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett: I personally feel for anyone who is genuinely homeless as more often than not there is a tragic story of why their life has turned out the way it has and they’ve found themselves without a roof over their head.
Therefore, when officers have to enforce the new squatting law they will always seek to engage with the local authority in order that appropriate advice around alternative accommodation can be sought if people are removed or arrested.
The legislation was passed in Parliament and it is not for the police to challenge the supremacy of our democratic institutions by discussing the various merits of their law-making: as with all criminal laws passed by Parliament it is the duty of Sussex Police – and every police force – to uphold the law.
Squatting now falls within this category and if alleged crimes are reported to the police by third parties, we must make a decision on how to resolve the issue.
Question: How will the police intend to prove intent of establishing residency at the time of entry to an empty residential property?
GB: Officers attending any call of people breaking into or entering a premises as trespassers will have to establish the facts. They will speak with the people in the property and try to gain from them why they are there and what their intentions are.
Where those enquiries lead the officers to believe that people are trespassing with the intent to live there then they have the option to report for summons or arrest for the offence. It is up to the courts to decide whether what we have discovered establishes residency to a sufficient degree within the terms of the squatting law.
Question: Why do the police not have the correct tools to protect the public? By this I mean in particular Taser. There is much talk about it, but normal everyday cops should be equipped with the appropriate tools to do the job to protect them and us. Cops don't know what they are walking into and deserve the kit if it is available to them. Why are there police walking the streets, attending our calls and policing our events, not equipped?
GB: Police officers are trained in a number of ways to deal with situations and protect the public. Whenever and wherever possible officers will assess the situation they are faced with, take advice from peers and senior officers and/or call for back-up.
In incidents where intelligence tells us someone may be armed firearms officers will be sent in first. However, not every dangerous situation can be planned for, and this is the reality that officers are faced with.
Sussex Police now have more protective equipment available to them than they had in the past – which is a good thing.
As for Tasers, we would only deploy them to an incident where there was a real threat of violence.
Tasers have been used by Sussex firearms officers for just over seven years and earlier this year we announced that it will be rolling out Tasers to another 160 officers, from local response and support teams.
Evidence has shown that Tasers reduce the levels of force officers are obliged to use when dealing with violent or threatening situations, avoiding, for example, the use of a baton. It also means that there will be fewer incidents that need to be attended by fully armed officers. But with any equipment or device that can cause harm to another person their use must be controlled, officers need to be fully trained and regularly assessed etc.
Question: Why do you think that the police always seem to be blamed for everything that goes wrong? For example criminals who re-offend? Do you not think it is time for the police to point the finger at the courts and name and shame these magistrates and judges?
GB: You are right to say that the police are only one part – usually the opening part – of the Criminal Justice System and we must work in partnership with those other agencies in delivering justice.
We (the Police) must always be and be seen to be impartial even if on some occasions we personally feel frustrated – as any other member of the public might – on the outcomes of the criminal justice system. We do not feel we could maintain this impartiality if we were to criticise our partner agencies, but concentrate on trying to make clear what our own part has been and how we have discharged it – well or badly and then working with those other agencies to improve things for the future.
Question: Considering the police spend most of the daytime dealing with shoplifters, do you think something should be changed so that these massive national companies took more of the responsibility? Or perhaps looked to deter rather than detect shop theft? To deter takes up none of the police’s time, to detect requires hours of police time and paperwork etc. That way police could perhaps be freed up to deal with other crime.
GB: I don’t think officers are spending most of their time dealing with shoplifters – it is one of many things they deal with on a day to day basis in a busy city such as ours.
However, theft is a criminal offence and so it will ultimately fall to the police to deal with. For lots of reasons it is far better to prevent crimes from happening in the first place than deal with them once they have.
In Brighton and Hove we work very closely with our partners at BCRP (Brighton Crime Reduction Partnership) sharing information and intelligence in order to prevent acquisitive crime. BCRP represents more than 400 businesses in the city.
We also have Op Tealeaf which is run by neighbourhood officers in central Brighton and again they work closely with door staff and partner agencies to target theft in the city.
Also, almost all stores now have fantastic CCTV that they readily make available to officers and more often than not when a suspect is confronted with the hard evidence they will admit their guilt and this in turn will reduce the police hours spent on the case. The stores are always open to our advice on how they can improve their security.
We seek where we can to get drug addicted offenders into treatment so as to remove the root cause of their offending.
In April this year we started to drug test people arrested for property crime and this has seen a number of people start to get the help they need to tackle their addiction. Hopefully this will then reduce their offending.
On the other hand, a lot of shoplifters are involved in other crime and arresting them for shoplifting allows us to gather intelligence to prevent a wider network of criminal activity.
Question: Do you think it is fair on the people of Brighton and Hove to have to put up with constant, consistent annoyance and disruption from particular protest groups in Brighton (ie Smash EDO and their sub-groups) without the police or the council taking action to enforce laws in place to deal with them. Yes people have a right to freedom of speech but people also have a right to free travel on the roads, bylaws to prevent noise and amplification etc. Why are you not removing these people from the road for obstruction of the highway? Why is their right to shout abuse at passers-by more important than my right to pick my child up from school in time instead of being stuck on a bus with protesters sat or slowly walking in front of it?
GB: I’m sorry that you were caught up in a protest when you were on your way to pick up your child – that must have been very frustrating for you.
I am aware that there has been an increase in street protests in recent years, particularly in Brighton and Hove. However in a democratic society people have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Indeed, as a police service we are expected to facilitate peaceful protest and there is no legislation which prohibits people assembling to protest.
We always attempt to balance these rights against other members of the community, who wish to go about their normal business.
The key word is ‘peaceful’ and we will always seek to deal robustly with anyone who commits criminal offences or seeks to hijack peaceful protests for their own criminal or violent ends.
With this in mind, Sussex Police have introduced two dedicated PLOs (Protest Liaison Officers) who will be introducing themselves over the coming weeks to protest groups in Brighton and Hove so that we can better plan with them and thus reduce inconvenience to others.
Question: As a law abiding citizen, who has never, ever, committed even the smallest of misdemeanours, I’d like him to tell me, why some of his police officers come across as rude, obnoxious and arrogant. They are alienating the public. Me included.
GB: I’m sorry that you have had these negative experiences. All police officers should treat all members of the public with courtesy and respect.
If you have any specific complaints about any officers, we would encourage you to complain to the police station or by phoning 101. We have a mechanism in place that will ensure your complaint will be thoroughly investigated.
Question: I would like to ask the police representative why nothing at all is being done about the huge numbers of cyclists riding on pavements, often at great speed. I have had many near misses from these lunatics, and there are still reports of pedestrians being injured by them. The huge encouragement by the Green Party in cycling around the city has increased the preponderance of this crime, yet no authority is accepting responsibility for it. Are they waiting for a death of a pedestrian before they will take action?”
GB: I recognise your frustration by the way some people cycle in the city.
The issue of cycling where it is not permitted, often on the pavement, is an issue that is often raised at Local Action Team (LAT) meetings across the city. These are where we agree with the communities our priorities for action and response.
When cycling is raised, as the police, we aim to focus on where it is reckless or dangerous. When identified as a priority our response is normally to have days of action where we explain the impact to offenders as well as give out warnings and fixed penalty notices in appropriate circumstances.
If we come across antisocial or unlawful cycling we should always deal with it there and then.
We will also look to work with partners to encourage safer cycling including the provision of cycle lanes and cycle training.
Undoubtedly, with the growth in cycling we need to ensure that it’s a safe transport choice for the cyclist as well as other road users.
If there are specific hotspots or people of concern then please call us on 101, bring them to the notice of your local PCSO or raise them for discussion at your local LAT.
Question: I would like to ask the police person why there is an inconsistent approach to managing antisocial behaviour. For example, if you live in The Hawk or Moulsecoomb and report young people for antisocial behaviour the police respond and community officers get involved.
If you report university students for exactly the same types of behaviour, residents are asked to phone the university community reps or contact the council.
Why are some young people treated differently from others and why are residents not being supported equally across the city.”
GB: I am sorry if you have been affected by antisocial behaviour. I understand the impact this can have on people’s lives. That is why earlier this year Sussex Police piloted a new system of recording and responding to calls from people who suffer from antisocial behaviour. We now try to take into account the impact on the victim and not just the level of offence reported.
We work closely with other organisations across the city including the council, housing associations and the universities. An example of this is our recent work in Pankhurst Avenue, Brighton. The residents in this area were plagued with anti social related issues but multi agency intervention has turned things around. There should be no difference in how we deal with these types of incidents whether they are on one of the estates or elsewhere involving students.
Our student liaison officers attended Freshers week to ensure that students are aware of the impact certain types of behaviour can have on others, as well as offering crime prevention and safety advice.
Question: If there are 3,000 known heroin addicts in Brighton and Hove, how many dealers must there be supplying them every day? How are you going to stop that trade?
GB: Whilst many addicts fund their habits through petty crime, which the police will always seek to prevent, the addicts themselves are victims of crime, manipulated and abused by the dealers who Sussex Police try and target as much as possible.
Since our drugs strategy Operation Reduction started in late 2005 we have caught more than 650 street drugs dealers who have been bringing misery to our streets. This is in addition to a number of members of organised crime networks who bring the drugs into the city. Where these people are charged in almost every case they are convicted and imprisoned.
We also carry out a number of drug warrants across the city, outside of Operation Reduction, which help bring to justice many drug dealers.
Sussex Police supports partner agencies that seek to use radical initiatives to help addicts give up their drug dependency permanently. In the Operation Reduction period we have referred 520 drug users into treatment and have seen acquisitive crime reduce by 23% overall.
We encourage anyone who has any information on the supply or selling of illegal drugs to contact a police officer, or their local PCSO, or to ring Crimestoppers anonymously if you prefer.
We can only gather intelligence like this with the help and support of public-spirited individuals or communities.
Would you like to quiz key figures in the county?
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We are giving you the chance to put questions to leading figures, politicians and business people across Sussex as part of our feature called Your Interview.
We have already featured Albion chief executive Paul Barber, Brighton Pavilion Green MP Caroline Lucas and Brighton businessman Mike Holland.
Next week The Argus invites readers to put their questions to author Peter James.
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