A POLICE chief took time off from probing the News of the World phone hacking scandal to patrol the streets of a trouble-torn village estate yesterday.
Jon Stoddart, chief constable of Durham, joined beat officers on the streets of the Pit Estate at Sacriston, to launch a week-long campaign against local yobs.
Locals had urged officers to take action against what Mr Stoddart described as “a small minority of people who are intimidating law-abiding residents”.
In response, local police Sergeant Audra Fawcett and her team are working alongside their partners, including the County Council and Cestria anti-social behaviour officers and Neighbourhood Wardens in a Week of Action starting yesterday.
Mr Stoddart, who will travel to London later this week as part of his role in leading the police phone hacking inquiry, codenamed Operation Weeting, said: “Our aim is to instill confidence in the local community that we have their best interests at heart and we will tackle issues which are having an impact on their quality of life.
“I decided to attend today because I thought my presence may be seen as a show of support for the local officers and also for the residents of this estate.
“There are some local bullies making life difficult for local people. Work has already started on addressing these issues. Three young people having signed Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, and parents are supporting our efforts in agreeing to sign Parenting Contracts. Another young man has been charged with offences, including damage to street lights.
“Although this is just one week of specific action this is only the beginning of the work to address the concerns raised.”
A mobile police van will be in place in Acorn Close in the centre of the estate all week.
Tom Clifford, from Durham County Council, said: “There is an interview room available in the police van where people can come along and speak to an officer with any concerns. This week of action is intended to show law-abiding residents of this estate their concerns are being listened to.”
Meanwhile Mr Stoddart will travel to London on Thursday to resume his work as head of Operation Weeting.
He said: “I am dividing my time between my duties to the Durham force and to Operation Weeting.”
Scotland Yard announced in September that Mr Stoddart will head the probe, after a request by the Metropolitan Police’s new commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Mr Hogan-Howe has told the Metropolitan Police Authority that the force’s relationship with the media had “gone too far,” and has pledged to reset the boundaries between police and the Press.