Maal: 'No Sign Of County Lines Crime Going Away'

Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Chief Superintendent Joanna Maal has been in the role several weeks - here she talks drug gangs, knife crime and improving the lives of those affected.

Over the past year we've reported on gangs, sex trafficking and cuckooing through our County Lines investigative reports.

On Thursday it was announced Swansea is getting a new unit to tackle the rise in the number of people carrying weapons like knives.

It follows a successful pilot project in Cardiff that found a clear link between gangs travelling to our region from big cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool to sell drugs - and knife crime.

At the start of this year - Swansea has faced media scrutiny - with The Sun newspaper among those reporting the city as having one of the worst high streets in the UK when it comes to crime and prostitution.

Last year 1,164 incidents were recorded by South Wales Police, with 387 as crimes. 

So 8 months on from our awareness raising campaign - which helped put the spotlight on the issue - we wanted to see if the situation had changed.

Swansea and Neath Port Talbot's Chief Superintendent Joanna Maal took up the post in May. Since her arrival she's been getting a handle on the issues affecting our region and told us: "I think County Lines is something we really need to focus and concentrate on - together with knife crime and the drug and substance misuse that underpins a lot of that activity.

"I am really keen to continue some of the excellent work that took place prior to my arrival. Both from a policing perspective and with the local authorities in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot to work together with them.  

"To try and maintain the safe areas and improve the lives of those who may be experiencing anti-social behaviour as a consequence of drug related activity."

Spotting the signs: 

"Our neighbourhood policing teams are doing a tremendous job cascading information.

"Attending engagement events, speaking with local schools, councillors and youth groups and anyone that they can really, so that they really spread the message.

They are informing people to let them know what the County Lines methodology looks like. So people can recognise it if they see it.

"It's everyone's responsibility to try and protect the young people in our communities and to recognise the signs if they feel that they are starting to behave differently.

"If they start wearing designer clothes, having lots of cash or other items on them which is out of the ordinary for them. To spot the signs and to know who to go to - to report them.

"Equally important is the schools network, neighbours, friends and just everyone being alert and knowing what to do if they do have their suspicions."

Knife crime on the rise:

"The 1.2 million pounds the Home Office have announced to set aside for Operation Sceptre is a really welcome announcement.  I think it's important to realise the whole of the UK has been affected by knife crime right now and we are no different in this area. 

"What I am pleased to say is that many communities across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will not experience any issues with knife related violence.

"But we have to be realistic there are incidents that take place where people do get hurt - where violent criminality takes place.

"The funding will be used to tackle that.  So through prevention, education, engagement, enforcement and a various range of tactics will be deployed.

"So very excited to announce we will have a sergeant and 6 constables that will be dedicated to look after that area."

Engaging with the next generation

Swansea and Neath Port Talbot's Chief Superintendent is the first woman to take the role and to celebrate that we invited her to speak at The Wave and Swansea Sound's Women of Steel event which visited schools in March. 

Joanna Maal feels it's important to build strong links with the communities she and her officers serve - through such initiatives.

Our reporter Emma Grant spoke to Joanna about what it means to have that position, how she feels about being back in her home patch after working across the UK and even Jamaica during her career. 

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