IT’S around 6pm in the afternoon on a bright, sunny Thursday in Sutton, and Sergeant James Oliver is out on duty looking for a burglar.
The young individual in question is a marked man. He’s on a list of some 30 persistent offenders which the police believe are responsible for a huge proportion of the area’s crime.
They house break, they steal, they take drugs, they ruin their own lives and the lives of others. They drive up those all-important figures. To Sgt Oliver they are his mission.
“At this moment in time he’s got nothing to lose,” Sgt Oliver says of his target.
“He’s got no accommodation that we can take off him, so it’s harder to do anything. “All you can do is turn him over (search him) all the time and give him grief.”
Although the game sounds fruitless, ultimately, one way or another, the police usually win.
“Eventually you get that much control over them that they break. They either go to prison or work with us.”
As the unmarked police car glides down Outram Street, Sgt Oliver looks ahead and to the right.
“There he is.”
Within four minutes, about six minutes in total after the officer first set out to find him, the teenager is in the back of a police car, minus a small quantity of heroin he had on him, and on his way to the cells.
This is one of Nottinghamshire Police’s most effective weapons in the fight against crime. This is ‘Integrated Offender Management’, or IOM.
The idea is simple; work out through records and intelligence who is committing the most crime, then offer them ‘the carrot’.
Support, advice, a gentle word in the ear, access to the right places to get them off drugs.
If this doesn’t work, Sgt Oliver’s team applies ‘the stick’.
Know them and their every move. Find out where they hang out and at what time of day. Work out who their family and friends are, their likes and dislikes, and, as much as the law will allow, give them hell.
Handbooks call it ‘intelligence-led policing’.
“We can arrest them and they can be bailed with conditions; it’s about exercising an element of control on anyone who commits crime,” explains Sgt Oliver.
“We also work closely with other agencies, ie if they are council or housing association tenants, the council can issue warnings or conditions, such as telling them they can’t have visitors; a lot of people don’t want to lose a nice flat.
“They know as soon as they do a job we are on to them all the time and it does stop them doing it.
“We will inform them if they are on our list. They get an initial visit and we will offer them pathways, which is essentially eight strands including help with drug abuse, housing and benefits.”
All 40 or so of the people in the IOM team’s sights are white men, aged 17 to the late 30s. Nearly all have drug problems, funded by theft and or their own low-level drug dealing.
Their names, mugshots, and whether or not they are in jail; this key information is pinned up on the wall of the IOM team’s office. If you are lucky enough to be detained at her majesty’s pleasure, the team stick a piece of transparent plastic with bars drawn on it over your face.
What tends to drive the area’s most regular criminals, explains Sgt Oliver, is drugs.
Cocaine was the scourge of the eighties, heroin took top spot in the nineties and ecstasy and cannabis took over in the naughties. Today ‘phet’, above all else, appears to be driving drug-related crime.
“Amphetamine is a completely different type of drug - it’s about the fact addicts want to take something, but by the time amphetamine gets here it’s diluted and they have to take quite a bit to get the right effect.”
The result can be a wide-awake thief, always in need of a fix and on a pumped-up high. These extreme forms of criminal require some more unusual and ingenious tactics.