Christmas Chronicles: Police Now officer tackles anti-social behaviour in Hertfordshire shopping centre
Friday 16 December 2022
Police Constable James Holt-Whittall, who joined Hertfordshire Constabulary in 2021 via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme, has worked with community partners to reduce anti-social behaviour (ASB) in Hatfield’s Galleria shopping centre, creating a safer environment for shoppers this festive season.
James worked closely with The Galleria’s security team as well as schools, businesses, youth clubs, and the local council to tackle youth ASB and shoplifting in the centre and identify those involved. Complaints to police about ASB in The Galleria, peaking at five calls per week during the summer, have remained at one or less calls per week since the start of October.
James and his colleagues have issued Acceptable Behaviour Agreements, barring the serious culprits from entering The Galleria without a parent present. He has also worked with partner agencies and schools to refer individuals to youth clubs and community activities, to tackle youth boredom and divert them away from crime.
Over the last six months, James has fostered a close relationship with The Galleria security team which has facilitated better intelligence sharing and contributed to the reduction in ASB. Security officers in The Galleria have noted positive changes in behaviour among many young people visiting the centre.
James has also helped establish a new community engagement hub in The Galleria, which provides a space where the police can positively engage with local residents through events such as community advice days. Although the hub is still relatively new, with the backing of James’ Chief Superintendent and other community leaders, it looks to have a bright future.
Steve Watkins, Head of Security at The Galleria said: “James has assisted us on numerous occasions not only in investigating incidents but liaising closely with us in building up profiles of the offenders and taking appropriate action where required. This has included visiting the individuals at home and engaging with the parents, to issuing banning orders and behavioural contracts. The more serious offences have resulted in civil action. We also now have a sharing agreement in place which has enabled us to liaise with various agencies including Welwyn Hatfield Council and schools in the area. This has proven to be very effective.
“As a result of the work being led by James, we have noticed a definite decrease in incidents being reported, making The Galleria a safer and more pleasant experience for our guests.”
Inspector Andrew Palfreyman, Welwyn Hatfield Safer Neighbourhood Team said: “The work at The Galleria is a great example of what can be achieved through appropriate partnership engagement, joint problem solving and coordinated activity. Supported by Sergeant Alex Smedley and closely working with the shopping centre’s security team, PC James Holt-Whittall’s work has significantly contributed to the reduction of anti-social behaviour, providing an accessible engagement hub where local officers can engage with the public. I am very proud of the work that James and the team have delivered, working with partners to ensure The Galleria remains a safe and pleasant experience for all concerned.”
Police Sergeant Alexander Smedley said: “PC Holt-Whittall has a can-do attitude and is willing to take on any new challenges he is presented with. Having been his line manager for a while now, he has developed extremely well and continues to take on new challenges. He is able to adapt to the demands faced by the team, helping out where required in other elements of policing. He is a team player having formed great working relationships with his colleagues.
“PC Holt-Whittall has ensured that he keeps up to date with changes in practices and policies, acting on initiative to achieve a goal or complete any task set to him. The impact he has had on the team and the wider community has been extremely positive with his ability to work well with others and solve problems. He has made a positive contribution and is a valued member of the team.”
Police Constable James Holt-Whittall said: “Knowing that I’ve had a positive impact on the lives of people in the community is what drives me as a person. The work I’ve done helping to reduce ASB in Hatfield and set-up the engagement hub has been a fantastic way to start my policing career, and it has been incredibly rewarding working with community partners throughout the process. It’s vital that we collaborate and cooperate with these partners and the wider neighbourhood to ensure that we police in the most effective way to ensure long-term, lasting change.
“Prior to joining Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme, I studied Human Geography at Lancaster University, before working as a care-worker for the elderly during the pandemic. Working in the care home was incredibly challenging but it’s there I discovered my passion for supporting vulnerable members of society and decided to join Police Now’s programme so I could offer support to entire communities.”
Applications for Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme are currently open for talented graduates who want to positively transform communities and become leaders in policing and in society.
For more information on the stats referenced above, please see Police Now’s latest Impact Report here.