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Meet Richard Smith, the new police community engagement officer for Mildenhall and Newmarket ready to clamp down on antisocial behaviour and break down barriers





A Suffolk police officer who has started a new beat in a town blighted by antisocial behaviour is determined to help eradicate the issue.

Community engagement officer Richard Smith, who has helped save children from a life of antisocial behaviour and county lines drug dealing while working in Ipswich, said he wants to build on that success through his new duties in Mildenhall and Newmarket.

In Mildenhall, police issued a number of dispersal orders in the town centre between December 2021 and January 2022 due to problems with a gang of youths who were climbing on roofs and damaging property.

Richard Smith is the new community engagement officer for Mildenhall and Newmarket. Picture: Suffolk Police
Richard Smith is the new community engagement officer for Mildenhall and Newmarket. Picture: Suffolk Police

PC Smith said he wants to completely eradicate the issues of antisocial behaviour in his new patch after recent positive steps to reduce it by safer neighbourhood teams.

Much of his time in the area will also be spent in schools and he feels the most important part of his role is connecting the community and the police.

He said: “My job is for people to know officers beyond the uniform and to build trust in the community, so when officers do have to deal with stuff in the area, they know we’re just normal people.

PC Smith was previously a community engagement officer for Ipswich east. Picture: Suffolk Police
PC Smith was previously a community engagement officer for Ipswich east. Picture: Suffolk Police

“Whatever I do I’m excited, because of the opportunities in the role and I can be very flexible in what I do.

“My interest is actually going out into the community, like an old school police officer on the beat, meeting and engaging with people as well as problem solving.”

Before starting his policing journey four years ago, PC Smith was a manager for Galloway, a coach and bus business in Mendlesham, and wanted a career change where he could help people.

PC Smith outside St Mary's Church in Mildenhall. Picture: Suffolk Police
PC Smith outside St Mary's Church in Mildenhall. Picture: Suffolk Police

The officer, who lives near Eye, has focused on issues in Ipswich’s Chantry estate in the last two years, such as clamping down on antisocial behaviour and preventing children from being recruited for county lines.

As part of the Ipswich Community Connect Program, they received £60,000 of funding to help deliver services supporting young people.

He said: “To me that was really important, having dealt with them in school, I could see the path they were taking. The potential for them to get exploited was a real concern.

He looks forward to helping children make smart decisions and steer away from antisocial behaviour and drug dealing. Picture: Suffolk Police
He looks forward to helping children make smart decisions and steer away from antisocial behaviour and drug dealing. Picture: Suffolk Police

“To directly make a difference, obtain funding, and bring in the services, was a really big step."

“Even now, I’m still involved in that project and I'm keen to see it develop. To have achieved that in a year and a half is positive and it's left a good legacy for the person taking over from me to move forward with.”

PC Smith is one of only 12 engagement officers in the county, who each play an important role in their local areas.

As a community engagement officer, PC Smith's focus is on helping bridge the gap between the community and the police. Picture: Suffolk Police
As a community engagement officer, PC Smith's focus is on helping bridge the gap between the community and the police. Picture: Suffolk Police

“It’s also about being able to be there when other officers potentially haven’t got the time due to the other demands of the role. I’ve got the opportunity to build those bridges as my role is quite flexible,” he said.

“To me, it’s about being kind. I enjoyed the stuff I did in the transport sector but felt like it was time to give something back. I just felt passionate about joining up the dots in the community and the police.

“I can do positive work to let people know we’re normal people beyond the uniform and I love that and I love working with people. I’m in a position where I can genuinely help.

PC Smith is one of 12 community engagement officers in Suffolk. Picture: Suffolk Police
PC Smith is one of 12 community engagement officers in Suffolk. Picture: Suffolk Police

“The challenge is like no other. You never know what you’re going to be doing.”

The current biggest challenge that police are facing at the moment across Suffolk is speeding according to PC Smith.

He helps support community speed watch teams train volunteers to use the technology that tracks speeding.

PC Smith enjoys street, nature and wildlife photography in his downtime. Picture: Suffolk Police
PC Smith enjoys street, nature and wildlife photography in his downtime. Picture: Suffolk Police

A nature and street photography fan, PC Smith enjoys his job but is grateful for the support he receives from his colleagues and family, including his wife Heidi and three sons.

He added: “For the things we deal with as police, you need people around you and because of the people around me, it makes working with the Suffolk police a pleasure.

“If things aren’t going so well, they’re there to pick you up and support you, as my family has also done over the years. They really are vital to me.”