North East police must “get ahead” of serious violent crime to stop communities suffering more tragedies, a top cop has vowed.
Vanessa Jardine, the new chief constable of Northumbria Police, has pledged action after a string of high-profile murder probes across the region over recent months.
A spate of upsetting episodes has included the deaths of several teenagers in alleged stabbings – 15-year-old Holly Newton from Haltwhistle, 14-year-old Gordon Gault from Newcastle and 14-year-old Tomasz Oleszak from Gateshead.
Ch Cons Jardine, who joined the force from West Midlands Police earlier this month to succeed Winton Keenen in the top-ranking job, has promised to make preventing serious crimes a top priority.
Speaking to the media for the first time on Thursday, she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that Northumbria Police “cannot keep doing the same things – we have to get ahead of demand” to stop incidents before they occur.
The new chief added: “There have been some heartbreaking, tragic incidents and my sympathies go out to all the family and friends of people who have lost loved ones.
“We need to be getting ahead [of serious violent crime]. We work in partnership with our Violence Reduction Unit and, if you are talking particularly about knife crime, we are working in schools with young people and trying to educate them about the dangers of carrying knives and the tragedy that it can cause.
“Sometimes young people tell us that they carry knives because it makes them feel safer or because it is a bit of a kudos thing. But what people, young people in particular, don’t realise, is the awful nature of knife crime and that using a knife can kill someone very, very quickly.”
Ch Cons Jardine added that her other top priority was “being there when people need us” – starting with answering 999 and 101 calls promptly.
Asked if residents across Tyne and Wear and Northumberland could still call their area a safe place to live after the succession of fatal incidents lately, she said: “Northumbria is absolutely a safe place to live – if you look comparatively with other forces, it is a safe place to live. But people need to feel safe being here as well.
“One of the things I am going to do in the next couple of months is go out into our communities personally, and the might of the Northumbria Police force, to talk to them, listen to them and understand the issues that matter to them.
“I can tell you from a statistics point of view that it is very safe. But people need to feel safe in their own homes and their own communities and we need to go out and listen to people and understand from them what is not making them feel safe so we can work with them and make sure that they are safe.”