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Posted on Thursday 7 October 2021
Sgt Gary Smith and PCSO Tom Harle

A project which resulted in a 64 per cent reduction in antisocial behaviour reports in a County Durham village has been crowned the winner of Durham Constabulary’s annual problem-solving conference.

The Pop Conference celebrates innovative problem-solving projects that have tackled issues in communities and transformed ways of working across police and partner agencies in County Durham and Darlington.

Ten of the best projects were showcased at the conference, held at The Durham Centre, in Belmont, with one being crowned the overall winner.

Sergeant Gary Smith, PC Harry Gott and PCSO Tom Harle took home the overall crown for their project, which resulted in reports of antisocial behaviour in Wheatley Hill reduce by 64 per cent.

They worked with local councillors and schools to target the main instigators of antisocial behaviour in the area and secured the demolition of a building in which local youths would gather during the winter months and bad weather. This has resulted in no incidents of antisocial behaviour being reported at the location since June this year.

Taking second place were Sergeant Grant Cockerill and PC Jonothan Ruddick, who worked to reduce the number of offences and incidents taking place in the county’s rural communities, in particular burglaries in which quadbikes were stolen from farms. Working with partner agencies, they secured funding to explore the use of tracker devices, enabling stolen quads to be easily tracked and returned to their owners.

Detective Inspector Andy Crowe won third prize for his work to reduce burglary in two areas within the force that had experienced an increase. He explored academic research surrounding the nudge tactic before putting it into practice at a local level, reducing burglaries in the selected areas at a very low cost to the force.

Deputy Chief Constable Dave Orford, who presented the winners with their certificates, said: “It has been a pleasure to see some of the fantastic problem-solving initiatives that have been going on across County Durham and Darlington over the past few months.

“The Covid pandemic has really put policing to the test, and I have never been prouder of our dedicated officers and staff for the way they took on the challenges thrown at them by Covid and continued to serve the public and protect our communities to the best of their ability and in difficult circumstances.

“But as the projects showcased at this conference have shown, as well as policing the pandemic, they continued to find innovative ways to problem-solve to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour, making our communities safer for everyone.”

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