Community's eyes and ears key to tackling crime says new police chief
The key to tackling crime across South Tyneside lies with its communities according to the man tasked with leading its police.
Northumbria Police’s newly appointed Chief Constable Winton Keenen has risen through the ranks to become its top officer.
With neighbourhood policing at the core of its work, he said a focus on victims, concerns surrounding vulnerable people and children and sexual exploitation are now issues the force is adept at tackling.
And in an interview with the Gazette, he believes the people of South Tyneside and the relationships they have with its policing teams will be at the centre of its efforts to prevent crimes and investigate incidents.
Recent efforts have included additional evening patrols at Chichester Metro station in South Shields, where officers teamed up with system operator Nexus following concerns from commuters.
While those dodging fares were caught and fined, members of the policing team spoke to passengers to gather information about issues, including antisocial behaviour, with young people also spoken to during the operation.
“We have really good community engagement and it is unique in that our neighbourhood teams have had a footprint in South Tyneside for many many years and linked up with organisations and that’s really what it is about,” he said.
“It is a very important relationship.
“Members of the public share our view and that is what the partnership between police and public should be.
“We know what the issues are and what we will do to deal with them.”
The Chief Constable, who signed up to the service 33 years ago, said: “It was a very different time and we were looking at very different types of crime, neighbourhood policing did not exist. “What we have now is officers who are dedicated to those duties.
“There have been big changes and now these issues are at the core of what we do and we are better placed to deal with them.”
During his career so far, he has experienced an extremely varied operational background which has seen postings to many different departments across the force area as well as abroad. These have included its Professional Standards Department, Serious and Organised Crime Unit, Force Intelligence and Special Branch.
In 2003/4, he was posted to Iraq as the first Contingent Commander for the deployment of United Kingdom non-military police officers, acting as mentors to members of the Iraq Police Service.
During his time there he was appointed as the lead officer for a large, multi-national contingent of military and civilian personnel, responsible for setting-up a police training academy and advising local senior police officers.
Much of his time in the force has been spent in the sphere of specialist, criminal investigation, often in the more covert aspects of policing.
Specialist roles have included those of dedicated senior investigating officer for homicide and kidnap and extortion, crisis and hostage negotiation co-ordinator, as well as tactical and strategic firearms commander.
He was also formerly the Detective Chief Superintendent in charge of Northumbria’s crime department and has previously held a wide and varied portfolio of responsibilities at the most senior strategic levels for the sixth largest force in the country.
Such responsibilities have included leadership of crime department, professional standards department, firearms support unit, motor patrols and dog section, criminal justice, custody, corporate development, corporate communications and legal department.
He became Assistant Chief Constable of the force in 2014 and became its deputy in 2015, with his appointment into the top position agreed in March by Northumbria Police and Crime Panel in a unanimous decision.