'St Albans is a safe place to live, work and visit' - police chief reassures public after recent crimewave

Should there be routine police patrols in Verulamium Park?

A group of youths violently assaulted a teenager in Verulamium Park this summer, prompting police to increase patrols. - Credit: Alan Davies

St Albans is a safe place to live and gang-related activity is far from prevalent, the city's chief inspector has reassured residents.

The past two years have seen various drug-related offences in the city, including violent assaults and the rise in County Lines activity, but police are proactively targeting offenders, Ch Insp Mike Todd revealed, and residents should not be living in fear.

Speaking exclusively to the Herts Ad, he said: “St Albans district remains a very safe place to live, work and visit. In fact, it is one of the safest in the country when you look at levels of crime.

"I understand people’s concerns however these incidents are isolated. Where necessary we have increased our patrols at times to reassure people, but not because we believe there has ever been a specific threat to the public.

A man was tasered by police in Civic Close, St Albans

A man was recently tasered by police in Civic Close after using threatening or abusive words or behaviour . - Credit: Matt Adams

“I would urge people to go about their normal activities and enjoy what this lovely area has to offer. As with any other area, they should take sensible precautions for their personal safety and to protect their belongings.”

Despite the recent conviction of a gang involved in a spate of violent crime, he said gang-related activity is far from prevalent in St Albans.

“Where we have seen it – most recently with Operation Luge – it has been quite isolated and we have responded with appropriate action that has stopped the activity and resulted in successful convictions.”

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Questioned over rumours that illegal knives can be purchased from under the counter at convenience stores in some parts of the city, Ch Insp Todd explained how Herts police were involved in setting up a Serious Violence Strategy in 2019, working with partner agencies to address violence and knife crime.

In addition to the national knife amnesties they carry out test purchasing operations to ensure retailers are complying with the legislation.

Some of the knives handed in across Hertfordshire during an amnesty.

Some of the knives handed in across Hertfordshire during an amnesty. - Credit: Archant

But he admitted: “However, knives are available from a wide range of sources, so we focus our efforts mainly on educating young people about the dangers of knife crime and gang culture.

"Our gangs and schools team run regular events to engage with young people, using a range of different mentors/speakers, from ex-gang members and victims to lawyers and medical professionals, to help explain the risks posed by violent crime.”

Cuckooing is a new type of crime where criminal gangs exploit vulnerable people, with the most common form where drug dealers take over someone's home and use it to store, use or sell drugs.

St Albans police have re-invigorated their approach to tackling cuckooing to encourage more reporting from the public including tenants, landlords and those witnessing anti-social behaviour and associated crime.

Once officers have executed a drugs warrant at an address suspected of cuckooing, the Safer Neighbourhood Team and Community Safety Unit will already be thinking about how they can stop the same thing happening again.

Ch Insp Todd explained: "There are various preventative measures we can put in place, such closure orders, which can shut premises down for up to six months. These can be adjusted to the circumstances so that only the owner or occupier - and support services - can lawfully enter the premises.

"Where applicable, we will share information with the local authority and housing associations, who may well decide to take their own action and seek possession of the premises.

“Officers are now reporting the associated activity as both substantive crimes, such as criminal damage, drugs offences, assaults and acquisitive crimes then tagging them as part of a cuckooing incident and where there are no substantive crimes officers are tasked with reporting suspicious activity as a safeguarding issue and again tagging it as cuckooing.

“Cuckooing cases are managed and risk assessed on a dedicated tracking system by the teams within each Community Safety Partnership area once they have been recorded.

"The Safer Neighbourhood Team then work closely with housing, adult, children/youth and health services to tackle and try to prevent the associated violence and exploitation of vulnerable victims.

“Police work closely in partnership with the associated agencies to provide better training for professionals, raise awareness, both internally and externally and to the wider public, seeking to broaden the support offered to victims and those affected by cuckooing in their communities."