Inspector Phil O'Connell

Your latest Blog from your local Inspector, Phil O'Connell, who covers the Cwmbran and Pontypool area.

September presented a number of challenges for us, including policing a number of large events as well as dealing with a number of high profile incidents.

A large funeral took place this month and whilst we do not normally police this type of occasion we recognised that the anticipated numbers would cause traffic disruption on some of our busiest carriageways.  The joint approach between us and Torfaen Council meant that the occasion passed without concern and whilst we saw an increase in traffic congestion, there were no wider concerns.  This kind of joined up working with our statutory partners showcases our approach to look at a myriad of issues collaboratively and ensure the right people are on hand to provide advice on the build up to the event and then deliver key services on the day.  I have spoken previously about the positive relationship we have in Torfaen with a number of our partners and this is one example of it.

As an organisation we often find it difficult to showcase and publicise all of the work we do.  The very nature of our role in the community means much of it is confidential and not for wider circulation.  That said, I do recognise that it is important to update communities on where we have been focussing our attention and the benefits from this activity where we can.

This month a new disruption team, focussed on dealing with people involved in organised criminality, was launched in our Force area.  The disruption team is looking to identify and disrupt the illegal activities of a minority who are so disruptive in our community.  Within their first two days, two drugs warrants were executed resulting in a seizure of approximately £10,000 worth of cannabis. 

The signs of drug dealing are often easy to spot.  Vehicles pulling into secluded car parks where an exchange takes place and then subsequently leaves is often the most obvious.  We need your help in the community to identify these activities so we can subsequently place our resources where they are most likely to have the greatest likelihood of success. 

In addition to these pre-planned house searches, officers have been using their stop and search powers to great effect, resulting in an arrest and significant cash seizure of a man who is believed to be involved in the supply of Class A drugs. 

Often going hand in hand with this type of drug misuse is an increase in Anti-Social Behaviour.  I hold open invite sessions with elected councillors and my team hold monthly police surgeries in your area to listen to the concerns of the public.  As I said at the outset, we look at these as an opportunity to listen to the needs of the community and then share what activity has taken place.  A meeting in September with some of our Blaenavon Councillors highlighted all of the good work that has taken place but it also highlighted the disconnect between us and partners publicising what has been achieved. I am confident that this will now begin to be passed out within the community and I am grateful for our Borough Councillors and Town Council for their continued support.

Whilst we do everything we can to target persistent anti-social behaviour we recognise that sometimes we do not get it right.  If you feel as though an anti-social behaviour issue exists within your community and you have not had a sufficient response from us or any other agency, then you can activate a ‘Community Trigger’.  The community trigger will be reviewed by a single point of contact within the Local Authority and then a review panel will decide on what activity is required or if a proportionate response has already been given.  Details of the trigger can be found here:

In Torfaen we are committed to building resilient communities and ensuring people feel safe when going about their daily lives.  Operation Sceptre is a national initiative, targeting knife crime and those who habitually carry weapons.  In Torfaen, the carrying of weapons is a rare occurrence but it is one we are attuned to.  The results of Operation Sceptre will be reported in due course but in the meanwhile, as an interim update, officers supported the initiative by carrying out targeted stop and searches.  To complement this, we worked with Torfaen Councils Trading Standards team and our youth cadets to try and purchase knives in and around Torfaen’s retail premises.  I am sad to say that not all of our retail premises refused to sell a knife to children clearly under 18 years of age.  These shops and retail workers will be dealt with appropriately by Police and Trading Standards.  I have said this on a number of occasions that we are all responsible for ensuring our community and the members of it are safe and these operations go to test the working practices of our retailers.  Of course, as parents and guardians or influential friends and family members, you can also play a role in speaking about the dangers of carrying weapons and the road it can lead to.  If you have any concerns about someone in illegal possession of a knife, then please report it to us through our 999, 101 or social media direct messages or alternatively it can be done anonymously through Crimestoppers.

The sad news of the murder of Thomas Gallagher took place in Llanyrafon this month.  This was reported widely in the media and I am conscious that many people from the area were concerned due to the amount of police activity on the day and for a number of days thereafter.  The neighbourhood team will be carrying street surgeries in and around the area to provide you with an opportunity to meet the team and discuss any issues.  Please look at our Gwent Police Website and pick the team that relates to your area to find out more.

The excellent work of our local policing and response team and the specialist capability of the Area Support Unit saw the arrest of two burglars who broke into a property and stole their vehicle from outside.  Officers responded swiftly to the incident and within 45 minutes, had identified two men who were both arrested shortly after.  This is the kind of activity you can expect from us in Torfaen, being well placed and capable to deal with serious crimes whilst being able to call upon specialist resources help us police effectively.  Two men aged 32 and 20 have been released on bail whilst enquiries are ongoing.

We regularly publicise the sentencing details of those found guilty at court. Please look out for our ‘Caught and in Court’ section of our website for updates.

Another plea from me is regarding the responsible use of social media platforms.  Community pages are not regulated or viewed by us as an organisation and inaccurate or inflammatory comments can cause concern within communities or even constitute a criminal offence for which you could be fined or imprisoned. We recently dealt with an incident and a family member went to a local social media page and published details about the case which could have caused serious repercussions for the court case and investigation. Whilst I understand people’s emotions run high in these circumstances, please make sure that you do not comment on ongoing cases and give detail that could lead to further investigation by officers, especially if you comment with sensitive information about a victim or offender.

As a sign off, we are now entering into October where people will look to celebrate Halloween and also fireworks become widely available.  Please make sure that if you are taking part in the celebrations that you do so both safely and legally.  All blue light services will suffer some additional demand during this period so acting responsibly and not endangering yourselves or others is the greatest thing you can do to help.  Enjoy yourselves but not at the detriment of yours or anyone else’s safety or quality of life.

For daily updates, follow my teams on Twitter @gpcwmbran @gppontypool

You can also email me any policing issues in your community philip.O'

Inspector Phil O'Connell