Where did you start your policing career, Jennie? Did you join straight out of education or follow a different career path originally?
I joined Gwent Police in 2001, having turned 20 just days before.
I’ve always wanted to be a police officer, so, on returning to Wales in 1999 after graduating from high school (I’d moved to Canada as a young child with my family) I set about getting my policing career off the ground.
I didn’t go straight into policing: I worked in finance before joining the force, and, when I started, completed a degree in police studies at Portsmouth Open University to broaden my knowledge and widen my experience.
I think that mix of practical learning and the theory behind my studies gave me a really good foundation for policing.
How has your career with Gwent Police progressed up to now?
My first post as a police officer was in Fairwater in Cwmbran. This was a small station linked to the shops but there was a great community atmosphere there. Something I still feel is vitally important now – really listening and talking with our communities so we understand local concerns and can put things in place to address them.
I remained in a response policing role in Cwmbran until around 2014, where I was temporarily promoted to the sergeant rank and moved to Pontypool. The promotion was made permanent a couple of years later; by that time, I was working out of Blackwood in Caerphilly.
In September 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, I became a temporary response inspector in the west of Gwent (covering Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Torfaen) before landing the dream substantive inspector role here in Torfaen this February.
As I said, I think a connection with the local community is really important, so it’s always been in the back of my mind that I’d have liked to move back to the area in a neighbourhood policing role. So, I’m thrilled to be back. As you can imagine it’s a very proud moment for me.
And, outside of career progression, during my time as an officer I worked with partner agencies at both a local and national level on developing our approach to tackling illegal psychoactive substances, including the implementation of the New Psychoactive Substances Act and, more recently, helped develop the Ellam Protocol in Gwent, a scheme which supports people with mental health issues and those who care for them.
What would you say are the main differences between response and neighbourhood policing?
For me the main difference is response policing is about dealing with the incidents that get reported to us on a daily basis, such as critical incidents, calls about vulnerability and crime. Neighbourhood policing is more about engaging and working with communities and other agencies to find long-term solutions to persistent issues.
What are your priorities now you’re settled into the neighbourhood inspector role in Torfaen?
In the short-term, I’ll be meeting with partner agencies and continuing to support my officers to gain a good understanding of local concerns and put measures in place that effectively address them.
It’s about implementing long-lasting measures that tackle the issues impacting the communities of Torfaen, issues such as ASB, something which was raised by residents in our recent Your Voice survey.
Do you live in Gwent? You’ve mentioned before wanting to return to Torfaen. Why is that?
Yes, I live in Gwent. I spent 16 years living in Torfaen and Newport and moved back to Torfaen five years ago with my family.
As a resident in the area, I feel I truly understand the community and how interventions from us, our partner agencies, charities, and community groups can have such a positive effect on everyday life.
One of the key elements of being effective is having support from our communities, so I would continue to encourage anyone affected by crime or ASB to report it to us and allow us to investigate and support you.
And finally . . . your first two months in the job. How have they been and what have you been focusing on?
In March I was with my Team in Blaenavon when The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Blaenavon Hwb, a community-focused youth centre that helps and supports over 600 local young people; and the World Heritage Site.
This was a real community event with families lining the streets to get a glimpse of the Royals. It was also a great opportunity for me to meet and speak with local business owners, residents and visitors in what is such a historic Welsh town.
I was also pleased to see the launch of our allotment watch initiative in Torfaen. CSO Hughes, who’s leading the scheme, has been speaking to plot holders across the area, talking to them about the measures they can put in place to keep their sheds, tools and belongings safe.
Things like marking your tools with SmartWater, securing your storage containers with quality locks and keeping valuables out of sight can make a real difference and deter opportunistic thieves.
Our officers are committed to tackling ASB and associated crime. It’s completely unacceptable and won’t be tolerated in Torfaen.
Which is why I was saddened to see the recent increase in reports of ASB in the evenings in and around Ivor and Broad Street in Blaenavon.
As a result, we’ve increased patrols in the area and will continue to deal robustly with anyone intent on causing upset and distress in the community.
The Easter break has passed, but we’re continuing to urge parents to speak to their children about the impact their behaviour can have on their town and their neighbours.
One of the ways we deal with ASB is to issue dispersal orders in areas that have seen increased reports of disorder. This was the case in Cwmbran recently, where I authorised orders to address the increase in reports.
Orders give us additional powers to direct groups away from the area if their behaviour is likely to contribute to disorder or cause harassment, alarm or distress. If they return after being directed away, they can face arrest.
Our patrols in the town centre will continue and we’re working with local community groups, including Cwmbran Centre to identify those responsible.
In this new role, I lead a team of police officers and community support officers that are enthusiastic and care about the communities they serve. Our focus will continue to be on the issues that are identified to us, which is why I encourage our residents and businesses to discuss any concerns they may have with us so we can continue to commit to keeping Torfaen a safe and enjoyable place to live, work and visit.
I look forward to sharing more news in my next blog.