Meet the new superintendent with a ‘vested interest’ in making communities as safe as possible
- Credit: Archant
A new policing commander has vowed to 'earn the respect of the people' as his officers battle county lines drug dealing and a surge of violent crime in the area.
Superintendent Paul Sharp has been installed as Suffolk Constabulary's eastern commander - covering Waveney, Suffolk Coastal and the north-east portion of mid-Suffolk - following an earlier period in the role from 2013 to 2015.
The 47-year-old, who grew up in Lowestoft and has lived in the area all his life, has served at every rank up to superintendent and returns for a second spell in charge.
Having taken up his position towards the end of last year, Supt Sharp is relishing taking the reins again and is determined to make people feel proud about living in the area.
'I'm really delighted to come back and feel privileged to have been given a second opportunity to be superintendent here,' said Supt Sharp.
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'From a personal point of view, I live in the area and I have for 40 years. I've got two grown up children who, like myself, were educated locally, so I've obviously got a vested interest in doing my part to making Lowestoft and the eastern area a safer place.
'This job is all about making people feel good about where they live. Lowestoft has loads of great things going for it. Yes, the nature of industry may have changed over the years and it's a lot different from what it used to be, but it's still a good place.'
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Despite his desire to focus on the positives of the eastern area, Supt Sharp is under no illusions about the challenges facing his team.
Last year it was revealed Lowestoft suffered a 71pc increase in violent and sexual offences between 2015 and 2017, while Home Office figures showed there were 2,026 violent and sexual offences reported in Lowestoft between January and August 2018.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore has meanwhile called county lines drug dealing the 'biggest threat without question facing Suffolk at the moment'.
'A lot of work has gone into the phenomenon of county lines to try and stop anybody, whether they are local or have wider connections, from gaining any kind of foothold in the eastern area,' added Supt Sharp.
'We're looking to be as proactive as we can and make the place hostile to people who want to commit offences. Of course we'll also be supporting the victims as much as possible.
'In terms of violent crime, around one in three of those reported to us are domestic. But they're not always reported and people have the chance to make life-changing decisions for men and women alike when it comes to reporting domestic violence.
'For me, though, the biggest challenge is dealing with constant change. The world is changing all the time and we need to make sure we are able to adapt. There are obviously challenges around dealing with traditional types of crime, but also making sure we are equipped to deal with new and emerging types of crime.'
With government funding to police forces cut by almost a third since 2010 and the number of officers falling by 21,000, questions are often asked about the visibility of policing in local communities.
While Supt Sharp acknowledges the key relationship between visibility and safety, he also emphasised the importance of pumping resources into the most effective
'People often equate safety and visibility,' he said. 'Lots of research has been done as to how effective that is or isn't, but everywhere's different.
'There are times when we'll patrol an area and people will think 'what's gone wrong?' And other times where you do the same thing and people say 'that's great, it's really nice to see you.' People see things in different ways.
'We've increased the size of our Safer Neighbourhood Teams, we've got police staff investigators providing additional support, and our engagement officers are trying to provide links between the police and the community.
'The important thing is that we try and be as visible as we can, while also using technology to its best effect in today's modern world.'