Inspector Phil O'Connell

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

With November upon us, we enter into a busy period as we build towards Christmas and New Year.  We can easily segment our working year and as the summer period ends and we transition into winter, we have new challenges upon us. It is important that we look ahead at these cyclical issues and ensure our plans and those of our Torfaen partners, all work with a single purpose of reducing crime and disorder and ensure our communities are kept safe in the process.

Cwmbran Town Centre has again been the focus of much of our attention. The town centre is an absolute asset to Torfaen and is one of the most welcoming and inviting shopping centres in the region.  The impending busy shopping period will undoubtedly attract thousands a day who take advantage of this retail centre.  
We are aware that many visitors experience of the town is marred by a small minority, intent on causing anti-social behaviour which makes for an unpleasant environment for others.  The reality is, the issues are not quite as simple for us to deal with as there is a direct link between anti-social behaviour and the supply of class A drugs causing the majority of our main issues.  

I have reported previously about the irresponsible actions of a few people who see no issue with supplying hard drugs to our young community.  Our efforts on the town are focussed on a number of issues.  We are continuing to pursue those who look to take advantage of our young community by providing them with these illicit drugs and we also look to target those vulnerable of being led down the wrong path in life, diverting them to a more rewarding and productive use of their time.  

Our aim is to approach these people early enough to prevent their offending but we recognise that there is a tipping point where we cannot continue to try and divert them away from offending and robust action needs to be taken when other options have failed.  We have a vast range of statutory options available to achieve this and the recent imprisonment of an 18-year-old for continually breaching his Criminal Behaviour Order shows how we often need to explore a number of options before coming to a positive outcome that benefits the Torfaen Community.

Our plan is to continue efforts on the town centre and additional resources are being deployed during key periods to address this.  We have also brought together our partners to ensure November has a co-ordinated approach to how we will achieve success.  

Our most recent activity on the town centre resulted in a 31-year-old man being arrested and charged for possession with a knife blade/sharp pointed article in a public place.  He is due to appear before magistrates later this month. 

This behaviour is simply unacceptable and it is your right to expect us to respond and take decisive action in these circumstances.  Officers have also arrested and charged a 20-year-old man from Croesyceiliog with two counts of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs and one count of being concerned in the supply of class B drugs. He is due before magistrates later this month.

I know much concern has been raised regarding Blaenavon Town Centre and I have sat down and reviewed our response over the last 12 months to ensure that the ‘Your Voice’ action plan has been progressed to alleviate the concerns raised.  I am proud of the work that my Neighbourhood Policing Team, along with Torfaen County Borough Councils Community Safety Team, have achieved in the area, working with key members of the Town Council, keeping them informed along the way of the work we have been doing.  I mentioned last month that it is often difficult to publicise the good work that we do and I am also not as naive to know that bad news makes far more exciting reading than us showcasing what we have done to help improve the situation.  I implore you all to think objectively about what has been achieved in this ward area and to view any rumour or social media messaging from a balanced perspective.  The fear of crime can be exacerbated by rumour which will cause a detrimental effect to the harmony of the community.  We of course listen to the concerns on a regular basis and my Neighbourhood team carry out monthly surgeries where concerned members of the public can raise any issues that they would not necessarily think to report.  Our superb links with the Town Council and borough councillors has recently been strengthened with a monthly feedback meeting so your community representatives will have the most recent information available for you to be able to get the latest about what is taking place in your area.  It obviously provides a two-way conduit where you are able to convey your concerns about what is happening in the back to us.

Some of you may have seen an appeal from myself in October regarding ensuring your homes and garages are locked.  With the colder weather upon us, another simple piece of advice is not to leave cars unattended to defrost.  We have seen a spike in break-ins to houses, particularly around Two Locks, Pontnewydd and the New Inn areas of Torfaen.  We immediately responded to this, ensuring swift action to apprehend the suspects.  To be able to do this we drew on additional resources from specialist teams who deal with our prolific offenders as well as new recruits from our new Tutor Pod in the West of the force area.  This resulted in the arrest of one man and one woman on suspicion of burglary. Both have been released under investigation pending further enquiries.  

I spoke a few weeks ago regarding the Serious and Organised Crime disruption team that has been set up in the west of Gwent which we are part of.  The initial joint up approach between the disruption team and our local proactive unit was positive and this week a 28-year-old man from Abersychan, was sentenced to 12-weeks in prison for breaching his serious crime and prevention order.  I was pleased to be able to feed back to key people in the local community of the arrest and subsequent sentence.  I know a great deal of law abiding citizens find it a bitter pill to swallow when people are able to drive around in high-end cars and take lavish holidays, yet have no legitimate form of income to match their outgoings.  We are reliant on the community continuing to provide this kind of information to us.  It helps put together all of the individual pieces of the jigsaw and target those who are living beyond their means.

I want to finish off with a commitment to you all if you find yourself a victim of crime in Torfaen.  I have been working with supervisors to ensure that, as a service, we truly care for victims of crime and you receive a personalised experience, tailored to your individual needs.  Part of this is the importance of taking the time to explain the stages of what is going to happen during the course of the investigation and how we plan to update you along the way.  

Without the support of the victim, an investigation will often fail so ensuring you are fully cited on the plans for the investigation as well receiving timely updates, via a method that suits you, is what you can expect without question.

If reporting a crime, you can expect the following from Torfaen Officers:

  • Receiving regular updates at a mutually agreeable frequency between you and the officer in the case
  • Receiving updates at key stages of the investigation.  This will include the point of arrest, interview, charging or releasing a suspect on bail.
  • You will be provided with the option to complete a Victim Personal Statement (VPS).  A VPS gives the victim a platform to voice how the crime they have been subjected to has affected them physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially or any other way.  It will not necessarily outline the facts of the case but will focus more on the profound effect of being subjected to the crime. 
  • Receiving the opportunity to review a decision not to prosecute a suspect.  This is known as the Victims Right to Review (VRR) and can be found at the following location.

These are all standard expectations you will receive from us.  If you do not, then as an organisation we need to know so we can improve our service and ensure that this does not become a repeated practice.

I wish you all a good November and I look forward to updating you at the end of the month about more good work that has taken place in the Torfaen community.

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