Rural crime a priority for new Thames Valley police chief

Thames Valley Police Chief John Campbell NNL-190304-092634001
Thames Valley Police Chief John Campbell NNL-190304-092634001

There was no fooling around for Thames Valley Police on April 1 as they officially installed their new Chief of Police John Campbell.

The 30- year police veteran takes over from Francis Habgood and has been deputy chief constable for Thames Valley Police (TVP) since 2015.

Mr Campbell has held police positions across three forces beginning his career as a bobby on the beat in 1988.

Mr Campbell said: “I joined west Midlands police in 1988 and spent 13 years there. I transferred to Hampshire in 2001 and then Thames Valley in 2010.

“I’ve done normal policing and I’ve done some specialist stuff. I’ve been a hostage negotiator, a police commander in Portsmouth and then in Thames Valley I was in charge of operations.

“I was responsible for the response to stop the flooding and did the police operation around the Olympics and then I was assistant chief constable crime here as well.”

Banbury’s main problem in recent years has been the rise in county drug lines and cuckooing – the take over of a person’s property, usually a vulnerable person, by drug gangs to be used as a de facto headquarters for the distribution of street drugs.

TVP have made some inroads to this problem and will continue to make county lines a priority. Mr Campbell said: “I think the public is starting to understand a little bit more about county lines. The reality is at different locations around TVP – Banbury is no different – you have the cuckooing business, you have a lot of money associated with drug dealing and what we really rely on is people giving us the information either through their neighbourhood teams or contacting us in other ways.

“If they start to see concerns about what might be a county drugs line or they are hearing stuff then let us know.

“We can do certain things with county lines. In regards to cuckooing, where a vulnerable member of the public – often a drug user themselves – are targeted because of their vulnerability, we can do things around closing the premises down, we can then do things around prosecuting the offenders when we catch them to almost create that hostile environment where those people don’t come to Banbury because it’s not worth it.”

He added: “It’s a whole team approach , you’ve got the neighbourhood policing on the ground that are working with the community, listening to what’s going on and being that familiar face.

“Then you’ve got, where necessary, the larger units that are used to target county drugs lines, we’ve got the intelligence packages and some of the covert stuff we do as a police force and then going through the door and executing warrants.

“What we are doing is reacting and saying if they want to come back to Banbury and deal drugs then we will respond quickly and send them back from whence they came. I’d rather see them in prison frankly.

“The life blood of it is when they’re starting to emerge and starting to target a particular location it’s us being made aware of that. We welcome any contribution the public can make.”

Rural crime has also been in the news with village shops and post offices being repeatedly targeted by crooks.

The impact of such crimes is not lost on the new police chief. Mr Campbell said: “What we have seen actually with recent figures is a reduction in rural crime in most areas, it’s down two or three per cent to what it was.

“We do recognise the challenge around rural crime is that the crime type itself may not have the volumes but it still makes people feel very unsettled and vulnerable and they feel there isn’t enough of us around.

“We do work hard to look at the communication our neighbourhood teams have with members of the public. Communicating and letting people know we are about is important but quite often, even when people think we are not about, it might be that they didn’t look out the window at that time, so it’s a fine balance between the two.”

He added: “Rural crime remains a priority for me going forward and protecting rural communities. Reducing rural crime and increasing satisfaction is a big priority to me.”

The police budget has recently had a boost with an approved increase from a rise in council tax but Mr Campbell warns that in real terms this is not quite the panacea it appears.

He said: “We’ve had an extra £8.4m and that’s come from an increase in local council taxation. That was welcome but the reality is it makes the cuts less worse. We’ve had to cut £100m over the last nine years or so and there’s more to come as well. The £8.4m allows us to not cut more, to put a bit more into 101 call handling and into our investigations.”