Shefford Mayor recognised at police awards for work to tackle violent youth gangs

The Mayor of Shefford was honoured at a police awards ceremony for his actions in tackling a violent crime spree that had left some families scared to leave their houses.

Paul Mackin was delighted to receive an ‘Award of Recognition, Highly Commended’ at the inaugural Community Hub Awards organised by Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway.

Shefford Town Mayor Paul Mackin at the Community Hub Awards 2019. Credit: Lynn Brooks.

Shefford Town Mayor Paul Mackin at the Community Hub Awards 2019. Credit: Lynn Brooks.

He was nominated for the accolade by the force’s North Rural Community Team, who recognised his efforts as part of the project Op Leithan, which saw him work with the force and Central Bedfordshire Council.

Mr Mackin said: “I must say it was a most unexpected evening. I thought I was invited along to support the community members. I feel a little guilty as it’s just part of my job to do this, but if people want to say thank you then I’m pleased and proud.

“Op Leithan was a police operation which started in late 2018 and finished in January. There was a spate of youth violence - fights, assaults, stabbings. Most of it was drug related. There were also one or two individuals who had been taken from another part of the county and rehoused in Shefford. People were afraid to go out. There were blokes who wouldn’t go out to the pubs in the evening. It was like wartime.”

Mr Mackin sent emails and made visits to Bedfordshire Police calling for urgency, which led to 24-hour police patrols and more intelligence gathered.

Some individuals were rehoused, while “others were detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure or got the message that if you messed about you get into trouble”.

In a Chronicle article from 2017, which discussed the rise of the troubles, Mr Mackin said: “I’ve written to the chief constable and the police commissioner accusing them of failing to provide a fit for purpose police force in the town.”

However, Mr Mackin has since been impressed with the force’s actions.

He added: “It was a tool rather than a threat. Something to say ‘you need to come and talk to members of the public’, and members of the public need to see that we’re saying that to you. Sometimes you have to make these public statements.

“At a public meeting with the PCC late last year, we had 90-odd people in the room. The community appreciated that they could come and talk to the PCC. Kathryn does a super job, although it’s certainly not one I’d want.

“The PCSOs and officers also put their hearts into Op Leithan. Area Inspector Nick Masters and Chief Constable Jon Boutcher did an outstanding job. Mr Boutcher was out doing patrols in Shefford town centre and Mr Masters had to co-ordinate officers.”

Inspector Nick Masters said, from the community team, said: “Paul’s support, advice and assistance was invaluable in our partnership work and helped us understand the concerns of the community of Shefford.

“He richly deserved this award and we look forward to working with him on future projects in the future.”

At the awards ceremony, held in Woburn Abbey’s Sculpture Gallery on September 19, Mr Mackin also received a Community Impact Award for his work with Op Leithan, as well as his efforts in Shefford Street Watch, which re-started again around three months ago.

“I think it has made a difference certainly; we’re gathering intelligence for the police,” said Mr Mackin.

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