THERE will be no place to hide for criminals wanted by the law – that is the mantra behind a new operation spearheaded by Sussex Police.
On Friday (March 21), more than a dozen special constables from across the Arun and Chichester districts launched Operation Manhunt.
The team of specials were brought together for the first time to hunt for criminals in Littlehampton who had breached court orders, were wanted for crimes or had failed to appear for a scheduled hearing before the courts.
Acting Inspector Roy Hodder – himself a former special constable – said this was ‘core policing’ designed to strike fear into the hearts of wanted criminals.
“Part of this operation is to make sure that not only our community knows that we are actively out there seeking those who are trying to evade us, and actually that those who choose to evade us as well know that we’re coming for them.
‘Nowhere is safe for criminals’
“This is core policing – this is what we do. We actively go out there seeking people who are wanted, either by us or wanted by the courts, those who fail to turn up to their bail or breach their bail conditions or those who are identified later from forensics.
“We want them to know that this is happening. We want them to know that it’s not safe to be at home at three in the morning and that we will come for them at all hours of the day.”
He added: “We know that people will be in for World Cup football matches, activities like Sport Relief and Children in Need, the X-Factor final, so we can target these events, knowing that these kinds of people will be at home.”
Special constables have the same powers of arrest as regular officers. However, unlike regulars, specials volunteer their time freely.
Specials Tom Bezants, 21, and Laura Marmolejo, 25, were given the task of with tracking a homeless man with a history of violent crime, who had recently breached a restraining order.
Tom, who lives in Rustington and also volunteers with the lifeboat service, in Littlehampton, was driving the force’s CCTV van, while Laura relayed intelligence.
“It’s a tough task,” admitted Tom. “Members of the street community are very hard to pin down because they do not have any sort of fixed address.”
The pair spent three hours, visiting four properties – some more than once – in an effort to track the man.
On this occasion they were unsuccessful.
However, as acting Insp Hodder explained, arrests were not always guaranteed.
“It’s not all about putting people in handcuffs all the time – we’re not going to achieve it every time.
“We will miss people, they won’t be at their home address,” he said.
He added that, by placing persistent pressure on family, friends and neighbours, the criminals ‘would crack’.
Operation Manhunt has been running successfully in Brighton since October, last year. And it is something that Arun district’s police commander, Chief Inspector Pip Taylor, is keen to see happen here.
She said: “We will use all our resources to come and get you. We will go to your homes and your family until we find you and our specials are really committed to doing this.
“We will be going out whenever we can to find these individuals. We won’t just be going out once but repeatedly.”