'We're going to make Doncaster town centre safer at night': police column

We’re going to be looking at new ways to make nights out in Doncaster safe for everyone, writes Supt Simon Wanless.

Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 6:44 pm

I’ve just started a new post at Doncaster Police station, as the superintendent in charge of aspects of policing including protecting vulnerable people, reactive criminal investigations, proactive work against criminal groups, work with the prisons, as well as taking on duties to improve community engagement.

I’ve not been in the new post long, and will be meeting people over the coming weeks to talk about what needs to be done.

But among my first priorities is to begin to look at the town centre to make sure it’s even safer for visitors who come into the town centre for the evening economy, using things like the bars and entertainment venues.

Supt Simon Wanless outside Doncaster Police Station

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I am going to be working with the relevant Chief Inspector to look at the night time economy – largely the town centre on a Friday and Saturday night – and seeking to reduce levels of violence that we see there to make it a safer place.

We will be looking to work with the local authority, and people within the industry, such as bar owners, bar supervisors, door staff and people from voluntary groups.

We are already looking at work that has been done in Sheffield under a scheme called Purple Flag, which aims to raise the standard and broaden the appeal of town centres between 5pm and 5am.

But we want to see what we can learn from other towns who have, like so many other towns and cities, seen issues of violence in their centres in the evenings. It has not been an issue unique to Doncaster.

Supt Simon Wanless outside Doncaster Police Station

For us, there are two things we would like to see. We’d like to see less demand for our services, and we would like to make going out for a night out in Doncaster a more enjoyable experience, free of fear of anti-social behaviour or violence.

Coming soon to Doncaster, the public will start to see body-worn video being used by our front line staff. Body-worn cameras are a piece of equipment we are looking to bring in for all police officers, and have already been used by our armed officers for nine months. We feel it has been a success so far. It has been useful in helping gather evidence. Also, we have found when someone realises their actions are being recorded, those actions often drastically change for the better. The early indications are that it works.

A safer town centre is something that I am keen to make a priority, but I am also keen to open up our use of force to greater public scrutiny. The Police and Crime Commissioner already has an ethics panel, but I’d like to do something in Doncaster to give people the chance to see the level of scrutiny and the data that we use to analyse the level of force that we use when we respond to incidents.

I think it will assist us in improving the level of public confidence if people can see this sort of information, which we use to make sure use of force is proportionate and justified. And I’m confident that our use of force is proportionate and justified.

I’m confident that my team is working hard to make Doncaster a safer place.

I’ve been an officer in South Yorkshire Police for 20 years, having joined the force straight from university. I spent my first few years in the force in Sheffield, moving to Barnsley in 2009 to becoming and inspector, and then back to Sheffield to become a chief inspector.

I have been a superintendent since 2017, when I became the superintendent in charge of the operational support unit, which provides support such as armed response, dogs, horses, and traffic work across the whole of South Yorkshire.

I’m also force lead on community engagement. I think sometimes we have been too busy taking action to dealing with issues of public concern that we don’t make enough time to let the public know about that work that we have been doing. I think it is important that we let you know what we are doing too.

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