Gang activity in the county is better understood by Bedfordshire Police than ever before, a meeting heard.
The force dealt with 54,000 crimes in the last year to April, compared to 58,000 during the previous 12 months.
The drop-off was partially because of the start of the pandemic lockdown.
“We’ve seen significant reductions in violence with injury, as well as burglary and shoplifting,” Chief Constable Garry Forsyth told a Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel meeting.
“So our serious youth violence position is down by 8.7 per cent,” he said.
“I think a lot of that’s attributable to our focus on organised criminality and, in particular, on guns and gangs and youth crime, with the Operation Bosun team and Operation Sparkler.
“We had more than 1,400 intelligence submissions on gangs, in the last year, which is a big increase on anything we’ve achieved before.
“It’s fair to say we’ve got a better understanding of gangs now than we’ve ever had.”
Under the two operations, police have conducted 662 targeted stop searches relating to “individuals and locations where there’s a higher volume of drug-dealing and gang-related activity”, according to the Chief Constable.
“Those 662 stop searches have led to 269 positive outcomes,” he added.
“That involves us recovering 11 firearms, 17 imitation firearms, 200 rounds of ammunition and 59 other weapons.
“Those same stop searches have led to 427 wraps of Class A amounting to 1.3kg being recovered, 2.9kg of Class B wraps and £100,000 cash, just from Bosun and Sparkler alone.
“We do a lot more around organised crime and we’ve had some incredibly impressive results, seizing huge volumes of Class A commodity running into the millions of pounds.”
On recruitment, the Chief Constable confirmed the force reached its target for last year of 178 officers.
“The ambition in the year ahead with the uplift programme and some precept growth is to recruit a further 156 officers,” he explained.
“Some are replacements, but a good number of those are new posts.
“I’m happy to report that we’re growing the organisation in some very important areas of business.
“We know we still need considerably more investment to deal with the complexity of crime we face here in Bedfordshire.”
Lobbying government with the help of the PCC will continue “through our politicians to stress the importance of having a fairly and properly funded police force in Bedfordshire”.
Before the coronavirus crisis, Bedfordshire Police’s overall crime performance was set to match the previous year.
“We were about on track for that until we got into the Covid-19 period, when we saw a very significant drop-off in lots of crimes, for example a 47 per cent reduction in burglary,” he said.
“That’s because people are at home and it’s difficult for criminals to hide from sight when there’s nobody else on the streets.
“We’ve seen significant decreases in shoplifting because the shops weren’t open. But overall we’ve had 54,000 crimes against 58,000 the previous year.
“Our solve rate we’ve managed to pretty much keep at the same level, 11.5 per cent against 11.6 per cent last year.”
SOURCE: Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel meeting
by Euan Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter