CRACKDOWNS on drug use and anti-social behaviour in the town centre will be stepped up under the leadership of new Central Sector Inspector Paul Saunders.

Insp Saunders is returning to the town centre beat after serving as the NPT sergeant for two-and-a half years, and will replace outgoing Insp Adrian Burt on March 31. He will now serve as deputy superintendent for Swindon.

After acting as local authority inspector with Swindon Council since 2011, Insp Saunders is looking to bring together his experience of the beat and contacts in other agencies to help with crime prevention.

“We can’t do everything ourselves,” he said. “Partnerships are massively important. The role of the police is to protect life and limb, but that is not the solution to everything. Other agencies need to help deal with prevention.”

Insp Saunders said working alongside cluibs and pubs is vital and he will be looking to continue the work of his predecessor.

“The town centre is a very transient area, because we have people coming through here from all over the town,” he said. “I was a sergeant in the town centre and first time around my main role was the nighttime economy.

“That is a key issue for us in terms of violent crime. If there is an effective, professional night ime economy while we work with the venues in proper collaboration you can have a nice atmosphere in the town centre.

“The vast majority of the officers here have been here for a considerable length of time, and they have a wealth of knowledge about their patch and the local issues. We could not put a price on that experience.”

The new Regent’s Circus development will link the town centre and Old Town – which Insp Saunders says will be useful. “Trying to cover both areas separately can be an issue, because they are a little bit too far apart to take in together, and having that link in the middle will give us the ability to join up our operations,” he said.

“We have a battle with perception of crime, and our job is to make sure the public feel safe. If you look at the weekend just gone we had only one incident of violent crime reported, which is down to a lot of the hard work put in by officers and at venues themselves, who are turning people away.

“We want to be dealing with low level stuff at 11pm so it does not escalate into a high level incident by 4am.”

Successes have been seen in joint operations with the police and other agencies, which Insp Saunders wants to build on.

“Street drinking was a major issue in the town centre 18 months ago, so an operation was put in place to target them and put agencies in place to create a long term solution,” he said.

“We can arrest people but that is a short term fix and does not solve the issue. If all those options fail we can fall back on anti-social behaviour orders.

“We want closer collaboration with the council through the anti-social behaviour team and expanding on the good work with neighbourhood justice panels – as well as working with partners such as inSwindon on improving the nighttime economy.”