In an exclusive interview with Luton News, Beds Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire revealed her worries about the rise in violent gang crime in Luton.
A Home Office report last week revealed that knife crime within Bedfordshire has risen 86% since 2014, with similar increases spotted in other parts of the Home Counties.
And two young men have been killed in the town in the past two months.
According to ACC Sebire, the rise in knife and gang-related crime is part of a national problem and the offenders are getting bolder.
She said: “This is what keeps me up at night. My fear is that this is happening in broad daylight, in public places, and the vast majority of people committing these crimes are doing it without fear of getting detected.
“Whereas a burglar might wear a balaclava, these are happening in daytime and the offenders are not worried about being found.
“I’ve watched CCTV of some of these incidents. The severity of the crimes and the almost nonchalance is really concerning.”
Asked what attracted youngsters to gang life, ACC Sebire said: “It seems exciting, it’s money and it’s a sense of belonging. And there’s the pressure and the threats that come along. Once they’ve got you, they’ve got you.
“Certainly with serious organised crime, there’s grooming and exploitation of these young people with promises of vast amounts of cash and kudos that they are not going to get anywhere else.
“They have a well-established business model and they have also exploited the transport links from London.”
In recent years, a new term – “cuckooing” – has been used to describe the practice of drugs gangs befriending and then taking over the homes of vulnerable tenants.
ACC Sebire said: “What worries me is the devastation it has on vulnerable people. It’s an atrocious crime to take over someone’s house and in turn, that upsets the local drugs market.”
Alluding to cuts, ACC Sebire said: “I think there’s a correlation between the challenges that all services are facing and the rise in other crime as well as knife crime.”
But she said, even with 300 extra officers the problem of gang and knife crime would not necessarily disappear.
The officer added that it is crucial the community report incidents in order to allow the police to gather intelligence.
She said: “We have got some really well-established protocols to protect people who assist us. For each person that is a witness, we regularly assess their safety – there’s a whole array of measures to provide support for people.
“I do understand the fear factor but where there’s clear vulnerablities, we would never leave a person in that situation.”
If you have concerns about gang-related crime, contact Beds Police by calling 101 or report online at www.bedfordshire.police.uk/report/Report. ACC Sebire will be in attendance at tonight’s meeting at Futures House, Marsh Farm from 5pm to 7.30pm.