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Sudbury police urged to use high-tech cameras to tackle criminals entering town

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A vehicle camera pilot scheme to target criminals entering and leaving the Sudbury area has been formally requested by councillors, as police confirmed tackling county lines remains a top priority.

Councillors representing Sudbury, Great Cornard and Long Melford resolved on Monday to ask Suffolk Police to implement a permanent ANPR camera system on key roads, on a trial basis.

ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) technology enables the registration of any vehicle passing by to be checked against databases of existing vehicles of interest, to help identify suspects and prevent criminal activity.

Concerns were raised about Sudbury's crime rate during a town council meeting. Picture: Mark Westley
Concerns were raised about Sudbury's crime rate during a town council meeting. Picture: Mark Westley

The request was made by Sudbury mayor Ellen Murphy to Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore, who attended the town council meeting on Tuesday night.

Jessie Carter, county councillor for Sudbury, who was one of the proposers of the scheme, said: “This is about stopping people who are coming into the town and making it not such a safe place.”

Mr Passmore said he would explore the possibility of such a scheme, adding that ANPR technology had proved very useful for Suffolk Constabulary’s Sentinel teams.

Tim Passmore
Tim Passmore

“It’s a good idea,” he told the meeting at Sudbury Town Hall. “We want to use any tactic we can to deter criminals from coming into Suffolk.”

Councillors also stressed the importance of a visible policing presence in the town, particularly on market days.

Insp Matt Paisley, locality inspector for Sudbury, agreed that intelligence gathering was key to crime prevention, and stated they are looking at what else they can do to “pick apart some of those intrinsic, deeper issues” that can lead to crime.

“Our local priorities very much revolve around county lines, anti-social behaviour and violence against women and girls,” he said.

Inspector Matt Paisley. Picture: Mecha Morton
Inspector Matt Paisley. Picture: Mecha Morton

“We are working with schools, social care and councils, to try and understand those more entrenched issues and how to resolve them.”

Official statistics indicate that Sudbury’s crime rate has remained steady over the last three years.

But, the online national data analysis project CrimeRate.co.uk reported that Sudbury was among the 10 most dangerous locations in Suffolk, out of more than 450 towns and villages, with a crime rate of 97 offences per 1,000 people in 2021.

Referring to these figures, Sudbury town councillor John Sayers said: “How have we got into that situation, and how will we get out of that?”

However, locality inspector Matt Paisley suggested that data like this can be misleading because of how the crimes are recorded, and that Sudbury remains very safe to the general public.

“We don’t have a violence in public places issue, we don’t have a stranger violence issue, we don’t have a high amount of crime committed in the public domain,” he told Tuesday’s meeting.

“Most of our violent crime is done behind closed doors, and the offenders and victims are known to each other.

“The risks to members of the public, who are out walking and going about their daily business, is actually very low.

“I can say with a happy disposition that Sudbury is very safe and remains safe.”

During the meeting, town and district councillor Jan Osborne raised the issue of drug use, and asked if police could do more to tackle the anti-social behaviour related to it.

“I have, for years, raised concerns about drug taking in Sudbury,” she said. “You have been doing a grand job with county lines, but at what point do police get involved in just drug taking?

“I have had calls from people saying, their neighbour has been smoking drugs, and they have to go inside on a sunny day because they can smell it, they contacted the police and they are not interested.”

In response, Insp Paisley said the recent success of public protection notices used by Essex Police, which have been upheld in court, could help “open the floodgates” for cracking down on disturbances caused by drug use.

Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore told the town council that the force has made “excellent progress” in drugs and county lines, but added that they knew they could not be complacent.

On county-wide policing matters, Mr Passmore welcomed the ongoing recruitment of additional officers, along with investment into improving the 101 system.

However, he warned that balancing resources continued to be a challenge, because Suffolk gets “an absolutely lousy deal from the Home Office” in terms of funding.

“The reality is, in the Home Office grant, we get £113.95 per resident,” said Mr Passmore. “Norfolk, for some reason, gets an extra £5 per person per year. There is no justification for that.

“I’m very happy to enlist public support to get a better deal for Suffolk. There’s no point just saying it’s not fair – we have to show what we would do with it.

“We will be coming forward with a programme of, if we had the extra money, what we would do with it and what the benefits would be.”