New Huntingdonshire police chief announces priorities

13:42 01 February 2013

Huntingdon

Huntingdon's new Chief Inspector Mel Dales

Archant

BURGLARY, anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse are top priorities for Huntingdonshire’s new chief inspector.

Chief Inspector Melanie Dales, the former head of Cambridgeshire police’s public protection department, took the role after her predecessor Chris Mead was promoted to acting superintendent in early January.

Chief Insp Dales, right, started her 20-year career in Huntingdon, before spells in Ramsey and St Ives, where she was promoted to sergeant in the late 1990s.

The mother-of-one, whose collar number is 999, moved to St Neots in 2002 and spent the next 10 years in non-uniform roles, setting up the Sexual Assault Referral Centre in 2010 and the Multi-Agency Referral Unit a year later.

The chief inspector said the latest spate of burglaries in St Neots is at the top of her priority list “and will be until it is sorted”.

“There is the common complaint that there aren’t any police officers on the streets but policing has changed,” she said. “For the St Neots burglaries, I have 18 officers who come to Huntingdon to be briefed then head out to St Neots to patrol. It’s a targeted approach and has meant that burglaries have dropped.

“Huntingdon is also where the most crime is, so I need to have more officers here than in Ramsey and St Ives, where they want to see more police presence but are low crime areas. However, looking at Ramsey we identified a need for an extra PCSO so one was moved from Huntingdon.

“I would rather have officers working behind the scenes investigating crimes and it has worked to great effect with a 32 per cent detection rate – the number of people charged per incident – compared to 25 per cent before.”

Chief Insp Dales added: “One of the biggest problems is that the area spans a large distance and has lots of rural communities, so we can’t be everywhere but I am keen on re-igniting the community forums to see what people list as their priorities.”

Setting up monthly online question-and-answer sessions are high on Chief Insp Dales’ agenda, as well as speaking to residents at council meetings and responding to complaints.

Chief Insp Dales is looking inward to improve staff morale, ensuring officers are offered training opportunities and improving professionalism to treat all crimes seriously as “although it may not mean much to the officer, it does mean a lot to the complainant”.

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