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Force launches recruitment drive to deal with major crime

Surrey Police highlights demand of dealing with major crimes including child sex exploitation
Published - 10/07/2015 By - Martin Buhagiar - Police Oracle

An acting detective chief superintendent has spoken of the need to find the right people as he launches a recruitment drive to form a team with the capacity to deal with the increase in major crime.

T/DCS Ray Blythe, of Surrey Police, says changes in the way the force deals with major crime, particularly child sex exploitation, and the rise and seriousness of such cases, means finding experienced people is imperative.

Temporary Detective Superintendent Chris Raymer, Detective Superintendent Adam Hibbert of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team and T/DCS Blythe (pictured left to right above), are in the process of putting together a team capable of focussing on challenging investigations.

Potential applicants can now apply.

The trio outlined the complexities officers face when dealing with such crimes.

T/DCS Blythe said: "One of the key changes in the last few years is the focus on the safeguarding of the victim.

"If you go back to the 1980s and early 1990s and investigating major crime, whilst the victim was a key part of it, the organisation was focussed with the mind-set of 'we are going to arrest a subject and deal with them and we'll sort out the victim when it comes to going court'.

"Now there is a multi-agency approach to managing the victims of those crimes, so we need people within our Public Protection units who have an understanding of the multi-agency approach, having an understanding of the safe-guarding processes. Investigation is a very important part of that safe-guarding but it is a much wider, more encompassing investigation now."

T/DCS Blythe says the mind-set of the officer is also important when dealing with child sex exploitation cases with the force looking for those who have experience of multi-agency approach work.

He added: "The force needs people experienced in investigations, in dealing with serious and complex crime, but if they have got a child protection investigation background that makes the process simpler.

T/Det Supt Raymer outlined the challenging aspects of dealing with a single allegation that can sometimes turn into multiple investigations.

He said: "You have what we call primary, secondary and tertiary investigations and safe-guarding. So when you look at investigations in relation to that, you might have an allegation from me (Chris) that I have been abused. At this stage I'd be the primary investigation but I might also mention that my mate Dave was also abused, so we haven't got an allegation from that individual but clearly there is an indication there is a crime there and an investigation needs to be underway. So they would be a secondary person.

"Now they might say that the person (offender) taught at a junior school and the victims know they abused other people. That's what we call a tertiary investigation.

"In the past we would have focussed on Chris and dealt with the investigation and that was it, we would not necessarily have gone onto these other elements - now we have to go on to these other elements and then replicate that in terms of safeguarding.

"So Chris is safeguarded, you have then got to safeguard Dave because they are vulnerable or might be being abused by other people and that is particularly the case when you are talking about online grooming and that kind of offence.

"The tertiary element to it is what they are saying about the school. Then there is the wider risk to the public.

"The complicated factor when talking about child sex exploitation is often you have not got an allegation but you have got to investigate and safeguard. You are unlikely to get engagement or statements from victims so you might not get a prosecution. If you haven't got a prosecution what you then have to do is build in disruption tactics which are wider and not just public protection. There are other elements of policing to utilise, other proactive elements that we have at our disposal to target an individual, to build a case without a victim giving us a statement. So now one allegation has turned into a complex child abuse investigation."

Det Supt Adam Hibbert says when dealing with cases like that you need detectives with the correct mind-set to deal with victims whose response to the crime may have changed over time.

He said: "Yesteryear's street-wise missing kid is today's victim of child sex exploitation and that shift is crucial. Specifically in the police and within the criminal justice system the thresholds that may have been applied, wrongly, in the early 2000s have been turned on their head.

"It's no good coming into this organisation with a 2002 mind-set. There is a significant shift in what will proceed as opposed to what didn't before and that understanding is key in any recruitment.

"You cannot have someone who sits there with the frame of mind 'in my day they were street-wise and today they are not'. Actually they have always been victims of sex exploitation and abuse. It's around believing the victim first and you work from that, not applying your own stereotypes.

"In terms of a recruitment process that understanding is quite important. You only have to read the papers to know it has changed. There are inherent dangers with recruiting people with the wrong mind-set because we will be sitting here in three years times saying the same thing."

With high profile operations like Hydrant and Stovewood leading national media into a frenzy are police forces under pressure when dealing with such cases?

"Not so much pressure as demand," says Det Supt Raymer. "Where before you didn’t get the publicity out there, now, because of social media in particular, the publicity around these sort of cases is out there so it gets out quicker.

"The focus is on as a national topic so victims are more and more comfortable coming forward so demand has increased. But this is what the investigation should be about, as opposed to what we may have done before."

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