Doncaster District Commander, Temporary Chief Superintendent Ian Proffitt joined the team at the end of 2021, replacing retiring Chief Superintendent Mel Payling, and his vision is to carry on the good work of his predecessor and make the town a safe place for people to live, work and visit.
Ian has been with South Yorkshire Police for 23 years so is all too familiar with the countywide issues around crime and he is determined to make Doncaster somewhere we should all be proud of.
He spoke exclusively to the Free Press this week to share his passion, focus and determination in his new role.
“Personally I’m new to Doncaster but I have been in South Yorkshire Police for a very long time,” he explained.
"In the short time I have been here I have already seen a real strong partnership with Doncaster Council, and I see people who are motivated and are working hard to impact on the lives of the people in the community.
“Working closely with Doncaster Council is incredibly important for the direction we’re going in.”
Top priorities for Ian are tackling domestic violence and sexual violence, anti-social behaviour, serious and organised crime and reducing violence and violent crime.
Here he talks through his approach to each of those issues.
Domestic violence and sexual violence
“Unfortunately this happens everywhere, within the country, county and in Doncaster.
"This is what we’re bringing some focus too. We all know and understand some of the national issues of violence against women and girls, it’s a key issue for us as a society, and we have a dedicated domestic violence team.
"Before Christmas, we saw a rise in incidents of spiking and we want to give assurances that we are equipped to deal with that.
"We are constantly working with licensed premises and helping raise awareness of the issue with door staff. We’ve even received funding to help provide things like bottle caps which go some way to prevent spiking taking place.”
Anti-social behaviour, serious and organised crime
“This is the kind of issue that can affect large parts of the community and the importance of our neighbourhood teams is impacting on that.
"We are looking at creating a fourth inspector-led neighbourhood policing team, which means we’re better aligned with the council’s neighbourhood teams, this will mean better joint working, and patrols and priorities will provide enhanced and improved services for residents.
“Among the four areas, the central team will have the same amount of officers but with different resources concerning the town centre, Hexthorpe and Balby, Wheatley Hills and Bessacarr
“There will be one team with a tight focus on organised crime in Mexborough, Conisbrough and Edlington.
“Among the problems is the supply of controlled drugs and this eats away at the community and can lead to violence.
"We’ve had real success around those areas and the organised crime gangs and that’s something we will continue into 2022.
"As well as the movement of class A drugs, we’ve seen in other parts of the borough many cannabis grows, and we’ve had power outages because of these.
“We have a relentless approach to this.
“Twelve warrants were recently executed across a couple of days resulting in 13 people being arrested and 800 plants being removed, but that’s not the end of it.
"We’re not talking factory scale operations, but it is affecting the local community.
“During the recent Operation Duxford we revisited Hexthorpe with more drug warrants and that’s something we will continue with there.”
He continued: “The town centre is a priority for us as we have a number of different issues including youth anti-social behaviour around the transport interchange and the Frenchgate.
"What we’ve seen up to Christmas are groups, some as young as 12, travelling into town and causing damage, causing confrontations with the staff at the interchange and at the shopping centre, and fights.
“We made 12 arrests and we have got fantastic CCTV which means we can easily identify people.
"I have concerns that parents are aware that their sons or daughters are travelling into the town centre, but what they’re not aware of is the culture of them behaving badly.”
He went on: “Homelessness is something that we’ve made good progress with.
"Begging in particular, it’s challenging, it’s not pleasant to see, it’s distressing for members of the public to be harassed by people for money.
"We have an approach using the Complex Lives Team at Doncaster Council and support from some of the alcohol, drug and homeless charities and housing department.
"Some of these individuals do have places to live, and have been offered support to bring them out of those circumstances, they choose not to.
“There are a core group who are very resistant to being housed, sometimes they’re funding a drug habit.
“Fifty three individuals have been tackled for begging and causing a nuisance and we will continue to arrest and detain.
"This is far from finished however and we will continue in 2022. We will make the town centre a pleasant place to visit.”
Reducing violent crime
Following the double town centre murder only two weeks ago, Ian wants to reassure residents that this horrendous attack is thankfully not the norm.
“These were clearly extreme circumstances.
“The sad death of those two young people led to a significant police presence. Six were arrested and an individual was charged with two murders. The investigation continues.
"I am extremely proud of the way the officers responded and dealt with the immediate circumstances, giving medical assistance and did the best they could for those two people.
"We have a plan to reduce violent crime, it’s about joined up working within the town centre and the night time economy.
"We need a robust police model in place around the night time economy.
"We are already working with licensees to ensure we are robust around alcohol consumption.”
Across the borough Doncaster Police are working hard to bolster their presence with uniformed officers on high visibility street patrols at key times, mounted police and also plain clothed officers.
Officers have been visiting primary schools as a preventative measure, to help children learn about good citizenship, how to help each other, and have lessons around good behaviours.
A serious of new drop-ins and pop-ups are proving popular, Ian explained: “The borough covers a large area and there’s a real difference between the town centre, rural and urban areas with a high population. They’ve all got specific needs, that’s why I’m keen to enhance how we can engage better.
"These drop ins are an important way to have a place for people to come to speak to us.”
To further boost this, plans are in place to work with Armthorpe Parish Council in the development of a new community building which will be used as a base by the neighbourhood team which is currently based in Thorne.
"For me this is a flag in the sand.”
But how is this all going to happen, and why now?
"Twelve years ago austerity meant we had to adjust. Now South Yorkshire Police is able to increase numbers and that’s how and why we need resources in community policing.
"I think we will have 100 or so officers by the end of this financial year and into spring 2023.
"In a year’s time we will be in a much better position.
"I will motivate people that want to do a good job for the public.
"Doncaster is a good place to live and work and there is a lot to be optimistic about.”