Prison officers at Doncaster’s jails are being trained to take statements and control crime scenes as South Yorkshire Police struggle with the challenge of dealing with around 100 crimes reports each month at the four sites.
The town already accounts for the highest crime rate in the county, on population size, with 28 per cent of all reports generated in the borough and the workload from the four prisons adds to that total.
Now senior officers are working with managers at the prisons to find new ways of tackling problems and reducing the burden on police officers.
That means prison officers being trained in crime scene management, with a report to South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings stating the development would “significantly increase our capability and capacity to manage crimes effectively.”
South Yorkshire Police is also looking for the prisons to put in money towards recruiting new civilian crime investigators to work around the prisons estate, with managers at Marshgate prison the first to sign up to that initiative.
The force’s crime training department is also developing a course for prison officers, which is expected to start by the end of this year, with police now also working more closely with prison intelligence officers and the Regional Prison Team.
Doncaster’s district commander, Chief Supt Shaun Morley, told Dr Billings in a report that meant police operations around prisons were based on active intelligence information. That means future work will be targeted, with greater chances of success.
Neighbourhood police, recently re-introduced across the county, are being used in Doncaster for pro-active operations around the prisons, with colleagues also taking on two operations each month to defend prison perimeters.
Security around prison walls and fences is a known issue nationally and regarded as a weak point for drugs and mobile phones getting into the hands of inmates.
Since May, a Prison Partnership Board has been operating in the town, originally set up with Lindholme Prison’s Governor Simon Walters, it now involves all four jails.
Chief Supt Morley’s report states: “There is much to be accomplished by working closer together and this will be an important element in better understand demands, set realistic partnership objectives and ascertain where there are opportunities for improvement.
“As an example, Doncaster District have sought funding from the Prisons in order to recruit additional Civilian Investigators, with HMP Marshgate being the first to support this initiative, with others interested.”
Doncaster’s overall crime situation is showing signs of improvement, with recent reductions in burglary and robbery offences, with reports of anti-social behaviour also reduced.
That comes alongside the re-introduction of a localised CID office, which had previously been centralised, since May this year, though burglaries have been reducing since the end of last year.
Chief Supt Morley said: “The new structure appears to be working well and clear benefits for Doncaster in being able to us staff more flexibly and therefore efficiently.
“The district has redesigned its delivery model around organised crime and it will establish a multi-agency organised crime group management hub to be based at Adwick Police Station.”
That is expected to go live during October, with officers working under the Operation Fortify ‘branding’, used across the force to identify work against organised criminals.
A joint operation was also launched at the start of this month with police in Sheffield, called Operation Shield, to tackle residential burglaries.
That will rely on a combination of publicity, improving security at likely burglary targets and working with offenders to achieve results.