Inspector Phil O'Connell

Your latest Blog from your local Inspector, Phil O'Connell, who covers the Cwmbran and Pontypool area.

August has been and gone and with people returning to their normal routines after the busy summer period it is a time for us as an organisation to look forward to our next tranche of events and ensure there are suitable plans in place to ensure an appropriate response.  If you are planning an event in Torfaen please make sure it is referred to the Event Safety Advisory Group.  This group of professionals will be able to help in ensuring plans in place are fit for purpose and it will help to make the distinction between your responsibility as the event organiser and that of any other agency.  Details of this group can be found at the following location.

This month we have welcomed two new members to our neighbourhood policing team.  Our Neighbourhood team deal with long standing issues and provide a strong link to the community and its elected members.  I am pleased to welcome PCs Sarah Breakspear and Beth Harris to the already established team of constables, Kevin Eyles, Jason Ghlamakary and Kim Meyrick.  The small yet efficient team have already made a significant impact by holding a Community Assist event in conjunction with members of the Torfaen County Borough Councils Community Safety Team and Bron Afon Housing.  Community Assist is a timely intervention, which as a group of partners, sets a commitment to respond in a timely manner to issues affecting local communities.  The team attended the Two Locks area where they spoke to a number of concerned residents about a broad spectrum of policing, residential and local authority issues.  As a committed cohort of partners we will now work with the community to address concerns over the disorder that has been experienced there with a view to apprehending those responsible and empowering the community to take steps to deter others from becoming involved.  I am passionate that Community Assist is a vehicle to deliver both informed and empowered communities and give them a voice to affect matters that are real to them.

Our new Chief Constable, Pam Kelly, set out her priorities for us this month and talked about a number of aspects of policing that she will hold us to account over.  I was reassured to learn that her priorities are what we have been working towards improving since my arrival 1½ years ago.  The Chief Constable set out her priorities as caring for those victims who are vulnerable, responding to Serious and Organised Criminality, the Wellbeing of our staff and our community and also caring for victims of crime and ensuring they are at the centre of any investigation.  For those of you have read my blog previously you will know that protecting and reassuring vulnerable people who are not in a position to adequately safeguard themselves has been a consistent theme for my team since I began. 

It is of the utmost importance now that, as a section we ensure that we are caring for victims, throughout the life of the investigation, ensuring that we keep victims of crime updated at regular or key intervals throughout the whole lifespan of an investigation.  Officers from Torfaen have worked on a training programme for all areas of Gwent for supervisory officers.  They have devised the programme in conjunction with support services to ensure the training can be disseminated to their staff.  We are also piloting a scheme with our Victims Hub ‘Connect Gwent’ to set up panels of Torfaen police officers, some of you may have also read this in my last blog.  We are close to holding our first Victim/Officer engagement panel with a vision to improve the whole of Gwent’s response to victims needs after the initial pilot.  I look forward to updating you in the coming months about this. 

A number of you may have seen social media posts and public messaging on Saturday 31st August relating to a suspicious package located on a bus in Cwmbran.  Members of the bus company rightly recognised the suspicious package and informed police so that a co-ordinated response was achieved in order to keep the community safe.  The initial inspection resulted in members of the British Armies Explosive Ordnance Disposal being called to examine the item.  Due to the item not being easily identifiable EOD took the decision to detonate a controlled explosion and it is this what many of you would have heard.  Initial testing confirmed that this package was nothing to be concerned about but our response was eminently proportionate and I am grateful to everyone concerned for their professional response.

The challenging nature of our work often means that situations we deal with can have a profound and long lasting effect on officers.  As an organisation we have invested in Trauma Resilience training to identify staff who have been affected by situations they have been exposed to.  The benefit of this is staff get timely support from people who are trained to recognise and identify those in need of ongoing emotional support.  As an organisation this has been widely embraced and it is good to see that staff are being invested in, in order to keep them fit and healthy and subsequently able to keep Torfaen residents safe. 

The collision that occurred early on in August on Penywaun Road, Pontypool was traumatic for all involved and sadly one where a young man lost his life.  Torfaen officers had to deal with the difficulties of the incident itself whilst trying to manage other calls for assistance in the area.  It is these types of incidents that our officers are able to use the services on offer by the organisation.  I am also grateful to the members of the public that assisted and if you know anyone who was at the scene on the day, who has been affected by this then please ensure they go to see their GP for ongoing support.  I am mindful that this may play on residents minds as much as it does officers so it is important anyone goes to get help as a result of this incident. The 5th September sees the funeral taking place for this incident.  Due to the large numbers of anticipated mourners following a very slow moving cortege, this has the potential to disrupt traffic and travel in Torfaen. We anticipate extra traffic on our road network between the hours of 11am – 4pm across both Pontypool and Cwmbran and we’re advising all residents to please plan ahead if you are travelling on these days. 

Lastly, I want to thank our local MP Nick Thomas-Symmonds who gave his ‘Day to Policing’ and joined one of the neighbourhood team for the morning to witness first-hand the day to day activity of a modern police officer.  I know from speaking to the MP that he found the experience invaluable and it gave him a real insight into the great work that takes place every day.  Some of you may have seen the posts put out on the day but if you haven’t please have a look on our social media pages. 

For daily updates, follow my teams on Twitter @gpcwmbran @gppontypool

You can also email me any policing issues in your community philip.O'[email protected]

Inspector Phil O'Connell