Breckland Chief Inspector bids farewell to take up new post at HQ
After spending the majority of his career policing the streets of Breckland, Chief Inspector Paul Wheatley is moving on to a new challenge.
The 43-year-old worked his way through the ranks, has been part of CID, and was an inspector at both Thetford and Dereham, before becoming chief inspector four-and-a-half years ago.
Aside from a three-year stint at the control room, he has spent much of his 18 years in the force within the Breckland district.
“I have seen a lot of improvements in the areas where we live and we don’t have as much social deprivation,” he said. “There are a lot more activities out there for people to do.
“We have anti-social behaviour issues but we have got some really dedicated police officers and we jump on it quickly. We are continuously targeting key people and locations.”
He added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I will miss Breckland. I have a lot of passion for the area and it is where I live.
“It is a nice to raise a family in a town where you police. Living within the community, you have a passion to make sure your children are not afraid to go out.”
He will take up the role of control room chief inspector at Norfolk Constabulary’s Wymondham headquarters on August 14, something he said he is very much looking forward too.
“There are some highly skilled individuals who work in there,” he said. “They are the people who are there 24 hours a day and seven days a week taking calls and they are the first contact with the public.
“They are making sure the right units are going to the right place in the right time. And I am really pleased to be working with these individuals.”
In his near two decade career, policing has changed dramatically.
Officers now spend more time helping vulnerable people, with domestic situations and deal with county line drug gangs.
He said: “Crime has changed. We have an increase in county lines, not so much in Breckland, but they are utilising our road networks.
“Outside criminal gangs come in and go out. Years ago you could get a crime pattern and generally you could work out who was committing these crimes from their MO.
“Investment in Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) is probably the most important thing now.”
He added: “I am pleased about what we have introduced technology-wise. The quad bikes were introduced when I first got here. They are a great for engagement but they give us a chance to get into the forest and stop anti-social behaviour.”
Norfolk as a force has also experienced a number of changes with the removal of Police Community Support Officers, the closures of stations and shutting of public enquiry offices, including at Thetford and Dereham.
Chf Insp Wheatley said that period was one of the most challenging of his career.
“We have gained police officers and the team is still being built - there are exciting times ahead,” he said. “But we were talking about people’s lives and we lost some really dedicated staff.
“These were people I had worked with for years and they were hard working and lovely individuals.
“But I understood the strategy behind it, where it was going, and I was fully supportive of it.”
During his command, work was put into areas including Dereham to ensure the town did not end up with drug problems from gangs looking for new areas to sell their products.
“Dereham like every town will always have an underlying issue. We have disrupted drug gangs and that has helped.
“But we have not seen the violent crime other cities have. We want people to be scared of having their door kicked in by the police. If you’re dealing drugs, expect a visit from us.
“Inspector Jon Papworth has done an excellent job identifying individuals. If we stop, that is when we start getting the county line gangs trying to get in.”
He says the introduction of the police cadets is his proudest moment. First started in Thetford, they have now spread to other areas of the county. He continues to work with the 13 to 18-year-olds every Thursday.
He added: “The volunteers out in the community have amazed me. They do a fantastic job. The councils, the councillors, speed watch volunteers and our police specials and cadets. I definitely could not have done this job without their help and advice. They are the hidden heroes.”