The retiring Chief Inspector for Tunbridge Wells has said a lot of hard work is behind keeping the town safe.
Just five months before he is due to step down, CI Dave Pate told the Times that drugs and gang operations are among the crime the local force is fighting every day.
Tunbridge Wells borough statistically has the lowest crime levels in Kent but the chief inspector has faced a number of challenges in his 30-year career to maintain that.
As well as dismantling London-based drug gangs (see Times page 1) CI Pate has also seen the devastation caused by ‘new psychoactive substances’.
These are knock-off versions of illegal drugs which have often been imported from foreign countries and have incorrectly been labelled as ‘legal highs’.
He said a 2016 change in law has made policing easier, as it became illegal to sell or import these substances.
“There were several cases where people would be collapsing in the streets because of the effects of these drugs.
“We managed to support the Home Office in creating legislation that tackles the dealers and distributors but does not overly-punish the users.
“It has not completely eradicated the issue but we have seen progress.”
Other issues in Tunbridge Wells to have emerged are cybercrime and domestic abuse, according to the Chief Inspector.
Some of these crimes are now better known to the police because of better reporting and awareness. He also credited the introduction of the 101 and the help of other agencies for helping the public feel comfortable in how to best approach the force.
“Most crimes committed now will involve an element of technology,” he added.
“In some ways it has become easier for the police because of video, you can see what has happened.
“But in other ways it’s become harder. There are a range of different devices available to criminals on the internet and we have had to skill ourselves to become an expert in analysing those.”
Another challenge has been continued government budget cuts. Since 2010 the number of officers nationally has fallen by more than 20,000.
CI Pate said: “We have been challenged through budget constraints. We have had to adapt but inevitably it does mean some things are not so easy to do.
“For example we can no longer attend every crime reported to us.
“I think the police you see is actually the tip of the iceberg of all the police activity that goes on throughout a day. We are massively supportive of PCSOs and we have set up the police cadet scheme.”
Kent Police is also becoming more proactive online, using their Facebook page to communicate a warning message to their thousands of followers.
Back in 1988, CI signed up to a very different force, long before the days of social media, and made himself known on a foot patrol in The Pantiles.
“On my first job it was down at the station area and I got punched in the face, which at the age of 20, shook my world up.
“I had a foot patrol, which probably sounds alien now, down in the Pantiles area.
“From there I joined the CID (Crime Investigation Department). It was a promotion that everyone recognised. Even the local villains would say ‘ooh, you’re a CID officer now’.”
CI Pate then joined the traffic unit and was later based at the now defunct Southborough Police Station.
He has also been based at Maidstone and Edenbridge police stations and was promoted to Sergeant in 2004.
For several years following he worked in the force as a dog handler, a role he said was ‘memorable’ with many in the town coming to know his canine Byron.
“I was also privileged to help find missing people, that is something I have always had a passion for,” he said.
“All the roles were rewarding in their own way, but working with animals as a dog handler was amazing.”
After this he worked his way up the career ladder with other roles such as Borough Commander for Tonbridge (in 2009) and Tunbridge Wells (from 2013 to 2017).
In 2013 when he was selected to become Chief Inspector for Tunbridge Wells.
CI Pate has not commented on what he will look to do after he retires in May but has passed on his best-wishes to his successor with policing set to change further.
“Amid a rising population, the challenge will continue to be cybercrime. We are going to have to continue our knowledge on things like fraud taking place online.”
He added: “It is inevitably sad that I am leaving. I have been privileged to lead some courageous officers, who are prepared to be assaulted in their line of duty – which is not often seen and I am proud to have led them.
“In partnership with other agencies and charities, the police have been able to sustain the safety in the town and borough.
“I have come to the end of my service and I am going to retire. I want to remain focused on what I can contribute to the community. There are some exciting opportunities coming up in the town with new builds and developments.”