New Sunderland police chief says officers are committed to keeping city safe

Temporary Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt.
Temporary Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt.

Sunderland's new police chief has responded to a new survey showing that the city's residents want more officers on their streets.

The Big City Survey showed that around two-thirds of the near 1,000 people who took part in the research disagreed with the idea had police have a high-profile presence.

Temporary Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, recently appointed as area commander for Northumbria Police's southern area command, said: “First of all we would like to thank the residents in Sunderland for completing the Sunderland Echo’s Big City Survey and giving their feedback on crime in the city. It’s incredibly useful to us to hear their views and understand the issues that matter most to them.

“We work very closely in partnership with Sunderland City Council to make the city a safe place. Over the past year we have carried out targeted operations which have focused on burglary, anti-social behaviour, protecting vulnerable victims and hate crime, to name but a few, right across the city.

“We’re absolutely committed to listening to what residents tell us as it’s only then we can get to the root of their concerns and find out what the issues that really affect them are. We know one of the biggest concerns local residents have is anti-social behaviour and over the past few weeks senior officers have been out and about in local communities where we know anti-social behaviour has been an issue.

“Along with Sunderland City Council, Gentoo and local councillors we have been speaking to residents and local business owners, finding out what the main issues are and gathering information so that we can do something about it. Officers will now be visiting local schools in the areas issues have been identified to talk to pupils about the impact of anti-social behaviour and what could happen if they are found to be involved.

“In response to community concerns we have put in place dispersal notices to move troublemakers out of an area, worked with our partners to evict nuisance neighbours and continue to enforce Operation Gryphon – our initiative that adopts a three-tiered approach to anti-social behaviour.

“Police teams across Sunderland are committed to ensuring the city is a safe place for our local communities. Providing a highly visible police presence throughout the city is important to us. However, we recognise not everyone will see us all of the time. I would like to reassure residents that we are there, and more importantly, we will be there when they need us.

Big City Survey reveals public pride in Sunderland

“Our activity has been carried out across the city as a whole as well as at a local level within local communities. We have carried out both the lighter nights and darker nights campaign, targeting crimes that often people perceive rise when the clocks change, as well as carrying out a lot of work to target motorbike disorder and actively supporting national awareness weeks such as hate crime awareness week.

“Operation Guardian continues to be enforced in the city centre which is aimed at safeguarding anyone who may be, or become vulnerable, during a night out. Operation Guardian sees us working with licensed premises, security guards and taxi drivers to ensure the city centre is a safe place for people to enjoy a night out.

“Local neighbourhood officers regularly attend local community events in their neighbourhood which gives them the opportunity to meet their local residents in a relaxed informal setting, which hopefully builds their confidence to come and speak to us when they need us.

“Neighbourhood Policing Teams regularly hold PACT (Partners and Communities Together) meetings and police surgeries providing an opportunity for residents to come and discuss their concerns, as well as hear about the work police have been doing in the area.

“We have a regular presence at the many major events the city hosts, such as the Sunderland International Airshow, Sunderland Pride and Sunderland Mela and look forward to attending these events each year. Officers are not only there to offer reassurance but they also get involved and we always encourage members of the public to come up to us and say hello. We have had some fantastic feedback from visitors who welcome our presence and interaction with the public.

“Our own Safer Communities Survey, which we carry out in conjunction with Sunderland City Council, found almost 90 per cent of people think police tackle local problems in Sunderland, with almost 100 per cent saying they felt safe in their local area. Almost 85 per cent say they think police do a good job at keeping the city centre safe.

“There has been a rise in recorded crime, not just in Sunderland but across the Northumbria Police area and nationally. This is in part down to the way crime is recorded, put in simple terms incidents that are now classed as a crime would not have been classed as such previously. It is important to point out that we have not seen a significant increase in the number of incidents reported to police, it is simply that incidents that would not have been classed as a crime before are now classed a crime.

“In addition to this, over the past few years we have carried out a lot of work aimed at giving victims of certain crime types the confidence to come forward and report these to police, for example victims of hate crimes and sexual offences.

“We recognise there have been some significant issues around demonstrations in the city in the past year that have had an impact on our local communities and now want to be able to look forward. We want to continue to build and improve public confidence in police, and hope by continuing to work with our local communities right across the city we can do this.”