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Northants Interceptors: The shift to proactive policing

Northamptonshire Police are relaunching their fleet of Interceptors as eight months down the line their full potential as criminal hunters has still not yet been realised.
Published - 14/05/2021 By - Chloe Livadeas

The Friday 15:00 – 02:00 shift – two weeks after the second step of the easing of the lockdown - Northants interceptor team had a busy night with incidents spanning mental health, missing persons and suspicious circumstances.

The interceptors were launched back in September 2020, creating a new fleet of fully-equipped vehicles with a dual role of polciing the roads and targetting travelling criminals while also enhancing response capability to all incidents.

They are part of a wider force strategy to strengthen crime fighting and fits in alongside the £1.3m investment to add around 100 ANPR cameras across the county which is dominated by the M1 motorway. 

But force politics and the hang-ups of the pandemic have got in the way of their capacity to actively target organised crime and those criminals using the county's vast road network. So much so the Interceptors are undergoing an operational 'reset' this week after taking too much of the brunt of response policing.

The cars are equipped with a stinger, hydraulic tools, and a drone and fitted with ANPR readers and a mircrophone speaker that reads out previous intel to the driver. 

Police Oracle went on the Friday shift driven by PC Ian Rudkin, an officer with 13 years' experience.

What did cops do before ANPR? “Gut instinct,” says PC Rudkin.   

“Nine times out of ten a criminal uses a car. You don’t commit a burglary on foot,” he says..  

The ANPR lets officers know a car has driven past with previous intel that the driver had been seen parked up smoking cannabis earlier in the month – not enough grounds to stop them.

“Things have got a lot more difficult around stop searches,” said PC Rudkin. “Years ago I think we were probably too lax with our stop searches and I don't think they were good enough. Whereas now I think we've gone to the other end of the scale.”

PC Rudkin says if an officer stops a vehicle that smells of cannabis, the driver admits they’ve been smoking cannabis and they’ve got intelligence that they’re a regular user of cannabis, they still don’t have grounds to search them.

He said officers are more cautious because of the potential to be scrutinised and criticised for a stop.

“My threshold is a lot higher than five or ten years ago,” he says.

The interceptor was busy throughout the night dealing with overspill from response.

The first call turned out to be a false alarm after a 30-mile blue light run.

There is no monitoring of the number of miles an officer drives in a shift, something that has been raised by the Federation as a safety-risk, along with the dangers of cognitive distractions during single crewing.

During the shift the interceptor did around 100 miles on grade ones, sometimes at speeds of 140mph. The driving can’t be shared even when double crewed as only a handful of the team can drive the Direct Shift Gearbox.

But PC Rudkin doesn’t think it's unsafe because the driving is broken up with jobs in-between. “And it’s about knowing your limits,” he says.

But the nature of the jobs can take their toll. PC Rudkin has been to murder scenes, fatal road traffic accidents, and recently to his first child death. “I’ve been quite lucky in that sense,” he reflects.

He’s struggled in the past with his mental health and speaks openly about it, more, he says, to encourage others to do the same.

“Cops don't talk about mental health,” he said. “I know people in the job that struggle that won't tell anybody or that won't go and get help because they don't want to be seen as weak.”

He said the structure of being out and about most of the time can be isolating at times, especially when the vehicles have been single-crewed because o

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