Saturday, August 19, 2017
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by Mark Burns Williamson
by Mark Burns Williamson

Times are increasingly tough for police officers and staff, those working for local authorities and other organisations working to keep our communities safe as severe government cuts continue to hit hard.

However over the last few weeks I have been out and about in the Bradford area to see first-hand the crucial work being done in our communities by Neighbourhood Policing Teams and our partners.

Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) have been the bedrock of community policing for a number of years, ensuring people feel safe, and being the first port of call for any local problems or issues that may arise. It’s crucial I get out and visit officers and staff to hear about their good work and visit the communities they work within.

One such project locally that I visited just weeks ago helps to improve engagement between the community and police involves futsal, a version of five-a-side football which is played with a smaller, brighter and softer ball than the traditional game.

4I witnessed first-hand the success of the football scheme for deaf people in the city, when, along with officers I donned a football kit to take part in a very enjoyable game at the Prism Deaf Youth Club in Girlington.

Funding for the eight-week project was obtained from a lottery-funded scheme West Yorkshire Sportivate, which gives people aged 11 to 25 who are interested in sport the chance to experience it through a short programme of coaching.

It was launched by PC Jo Armstrong from the Bradford City Area Neighbourhood Team, who teamed up with Sam Allen from the deaf community to improve engagement between themselves and the police. A similar scheme has also been running at Hanson School Academy.

Sports such as futsal are a great way to promote community cohesion and increase self-esteem, confidence and motivation. I helped hand out certificates and medals to the youngsters that took part and was impressed with the commitment and those that made this very positive scheme happen.

I also attended the community contact point at Low Moor, Victoria Park, and spoke to the local volunteers, police and councillors about the work they do to run it. The contact point opens on Monday’s and Wednesdays from 09:30am to 11:30am and is an opportunity for local residents to get advice or report crimes. The dedication of the volunteers was clear to see and the difference it made in the local community was obvious in building up trust and confidence.

I was also in Keighley recently where I visited Lund Park and spoke to members of the public who live close by.

16There were a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour late last year that were reported to my office and I personally wanted to visit the area and speak to local people. I was reassured to hear that these kind of incidents are being dealt with by local NPT officers, who are providing reassurance to communities affected.

Another noteworthy development is the opening of the Bradford Centre of Excellence: Positive Pathways for Young People which is a new initiative that delivers targeted interventions about the consequences of crime.

The centre, which is located in Girlington Community Centre in the Toller area of Bradford, uses a series of theatrical sets, such as a courtroom, a prison cell, as well as a shop and park where crime might happen. Mentors can use these sets to get over to young people what crime can involve and the negative impact it can have on their lives, as well as victims, families and communities.

Experience from similar projects elsewhere in the country shows that these kinds of interventions deliver great improvement in the numbers of young people who return to mainstream education and refrain from further crime.

The initiative has been funded by Bradford Council and my Safer Communities Fund and has been developed in partnership with West Yorkshire Police and other partners in the youth justice system.

This is a great initiative for Bradford and for Yorkshire. Many young people aren’t aware of the consequences of crime. Raising awareness amongst young people of the impact crime can have on their life and the lives’ of other people is an important step in preventing crime and building a safer community.

All of the above are just a snapshot of the work being done in communities to make people feel safer and engage youngsters working with volunteers and NPTs. I am delighted to be able to visit these projects and use my Safer Communities Fund to be able to support some of this good work being done by charities and volunteers.

The next round of that fund should be ready to receive applications in the coming months.

So I believe it’s important to remember, despite the severe cuts and challenges faced by police and our partners, the vital work being done in communities, by police officers, staff, volunteers and the engagement of youngsters and adults alike.

I will continue to be out and about across Bradford and West Yorkshire, speaking to members of the public about policing and community safety and the concerns they face in their communities and ensuring our shrinking resources are effectively targeted in tackling crime and keeping our communities safe.

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Bradford MP, David Ward MP has today published details of his Private Members Bill in Parliament calling for off road vehicles to be registered to assist the Police with dealing with anti-social behaviour across Bradford.

David published the text of the Off-Road Vehicles (Registration) Bill 2014-15 in Parliament today which will make provision for the establishment of a compulsory registration scheme at the point of sale for all off-road motorcycles and quad bikes.

The use of off road vehicles like Quad and Dirt Bikes on our roads is illegal but there is a particular problem in Bradford where these vehicles are used on roads and estates in order to speed, making a large amount of noise and generally causing a large amount of anti-social behaviour. 15% of all anti-social behaviour calls to West Yorkshire Police relate to the use of Off-Road Vehicles.

David’s Bill will ensure that when Off Road Vehicles are sold, they will have to be registered. The legislation is not retrospective so it will take time for all vehicles to be registered whether new or resold 2nd hand but before long a comprehensive register of off road vehicles would be in place.

David Ward with the Quad Squad
David Ward with the Quad Squad

This means that the Police will be able to access records on a vehicles make and model which will better allow them to identity the perpetrators and take enforcement action. David has met with colleagues from West Yorkshire Police on many occasions to discuss his ideas and they welcome David’s Bill as an effective method in helping the Police track those taking part in anti-social behaviour in Bradford and across the country.

The 2nd Reading of David’s Bill will be on Friday 27th February and ensures that those found to be possession of vehicles that should be registered face a fine of £1,000 and where necessary confiscation of the offending vehicle.

Talking about the Bill, Bradford MP David Ward said:

“The use of off road vehicles in an anti-social manner has proved to be a real problem across Bradford and that’s why we need to ensure that the Police have all the necessary powers available to them to take effective action.

“The registration of dirt bikes and quad bikes after the point of sale would greatly enhance the ability of the Police to identify and prosecute those people using these vehicles in a dangerous and anti-social manner.

“West Yorkshire Police tell me that the registration of off-road vehicles would be significant step in helping to tackle crime, reduce antisocial behaviour and improving road safety in Bradford.”


By Mark Burns Williamson

Mark Burns Williamson
Mark Burns Williamson

I have previously spoken out about the need for more awareness around how to tackle human trafficking and last year held the first event of its kind in West Yorkshire where partners came together to look at how we deal with this significant emerging threat.

Human trafficking can include forced labour, or services, domestic servitude, sexual offences and other forms of exploitation. Those descriptions do nothing to convey the true horror and nightmare faced by those human trafficked each and every day, with numbers steadily rising, although the true figure is probably much higher than we predict.

Since that event last April, events have gathered pace and we have recently announced the establishment of the West Yorkshire Anti-Trafficking Network, which is a network created by myself (OPCC) in conjunction with Hope for Justice, an anti-trafficking charity.

That network will help train up to 3,500 frontline staff and police officers to know how to detect the signs of someone being trafficked and how to tackle it and support the victims of this horrendous crime.

Now I am proud to be part of the new initiative by West Yorkshire Police to create a new dedicated Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) with the funding I set aside in last year’s budget for this to happen.

The unit will be made up of a dedicated team of detectives, who will work both locally and nationally to target organised crime lords seeking to traffic people into West Yorkshire.

Human Trafficking Team oneIt has been formed as part of a range of initiatives underway in West Yorkshire to combat trafficking, as well as Cyber Crime and CSE which I identified as key issues that needed dealing with in my Police and Crime Plan.

The new Human Trafficking Unit will be led by a dedicated detective inspector and staffed by specialist detectives and investigators who have all received training in investigating human trafficking and related offending.

It is only the second of its kind in England behind the MET police and has been set up as part of West Yorkshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and will use the full range of tactics and techniques used by SOCU to investigate the most complex criminal cases across the piece.

The creation of this dedicated response unit shows how West Yorkshire Police is leading the way in helping victims of human trafficking.

Those being helped by the unit will then be supported by the 3,500 people being trained by the network to put their lives back together and it means victims are subsequently more confident in coming forward to the police.

I have also spoken openly about my support for the Modern Slavery Bill which aims to increase the maximum custodial sentence for offenders from 14 years to life and there is cross party support for action to tackle this issue.

I have heard shocking cases of people being trafficked and forced into a life of misery. This is happening in modern day society and I, along with West Yorkshire Police and partners, will do everything in my power to stop these perpetrators of this vile crime in their tracks.

images1Y84A7BLI have personally pledged to work with fellow Police and Crime Commissioners to tackle these issues and the role of the National Crime Agency is also key for joined up strategic working to deal with these vile crimes.

I want to warn those inflicting this awful practice on others that they will be dealt with severely by the courts as more awareness and support is offered to victims to come forward. There will be no hiding place for those thinking it is acceptable in the 21st century to inflict this kind of abuse on others.


There has and continues to be a keen interest from the public in the situation in Gaza, which has led to a series of protests being organised across West Yorkshire – particularly in Bradford.

Policing protests is a particularly challenging area of Policing. All officers take an oath when joining the service to discharge their duties without fear or favour.

As you can imagine, at times we may have strong feelings about the demonstrations that we are policing, but our training and discipline assist in not being influenced. It is really important that we are impartial as our duty is to facilitate peaceful protest as long as it is legal. We must make sure that any protesters do not stray from lawful demonstrations into unlawful activities.

In the main, the protests in Bradford have been carried out very responsibly and peacefully with people exercising their democratic right to protest without adversely affecting the community. The leaders of these demonstrations have been responsible and have spoken with the Police about their intentions. This dialogue has ensured that the protesters have been able to achieve their aims without acting in an unlawful manner.

The Police will act in a proportionate manner when action is necessary with people who act unlawfully.

Bradford is a fantastic place to serve as an officer and the multicultural nature of the city provides a variety of problems to resolve. We work with people from all communities to make neighbourhoods safer. One of the fond memories I have of some recent partnership working was when the English Defence League came to demonstrate in Bradford. The demonstration was facilitated and passed with minimum disruption to the city.

The resilience of individuals and community groups was apparent in the build-up to the protest and throughout the day in question, and the support and engagement with local officers and officers from other areas was outstanding.

This is a fantastic example that demonstrates that the Police do not police the community in isolation, as we are actually part of the community which we serve.

Superintendent Vincent Firth is head of Partnerships for the Police in Bradford District. He has worked for West Yorkshire Police for more than 25 years and has previously worked in areas such as operational support and public order training. His current role means he is the key contact for partner agencies who express an interest in working in conjunction with the police in Bradford on projects.