New Motorways commander looking forward to 'Unique Challenge'

Friday, 19 June, 2009

A NEW man has taken up the challenge of making sure the region's 450 miles of motorway are a safe and trouble-free place for millions of motorists.

Chief Superintendent David Jones is looking forward to his new role with the Central Motorway Police Group, and getting to know his 'patch' - that stretches from the Welsh border to Gloucestershire and from Cheshire to the busy Spaghetti Junction.

After 27 years as a West Mercia officer in various roles from uniformed PC to the force's director of intelligence, he is relishing the chance of learning a new set of skills in the "unique environment" of the region's motorways.

The CMPG covers the West Midlands area along with Staffordshire and West Mercia police force areas and has 140 police officers and 29 support staff. Ch Supt Jones, aged 45, who is married with two daughters, succeeds Ch Supt Kevin O'Leary, who has now retired.

He said: "I was really attracted by the unique challenge. My experience will help and I am ready for something new and different. We have an effective collaborative team of officers from three forces that work together to combat criminality that crosses county boundaries.

"The traffic specialism will keep me really busy, but I am having a great time.

"I have spent time with most of the units already and I have travelled the 450 miles of the network - it pretty much takes a whole shift to get around and you don't realise how big it is until you get out there.

"The motorway is a really hostile environment - when you're standing on the hard shoulder with traffic speeding past and the tremendous noise, you realise how really difficult it is to police.

"I have the greatest admiration for the officers here. They are incredibly well-trained and do a fantastic job in difficult circumstances."

Ch Supt Jones is looking forward to helping to develop the use of new technology, particularly the effectiveness of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras on the motorways. They can record a million reads a day on vehicles that may be of interest to the police and provide the service with a fantastic investigative weapon.

In one case recently armed robbers had travelled across the motorway network for a raid in Warwickshire, but following the offence, with the help of the CMPG and its ANPR expertise, officers were able to backtrack a vehicle on its way down the motorways before the raid and then on its return journey so officers could make an arrest.

And it is developments such as this that spell an exciting future for CMPG and Ch Supt Jones, who will be bringing his skills to help the unit tackle serious and organised crime more effectively and be more intelligence-led.

He added: "Our priority is to keep people safe and allow them to pass through the motorway network safely and without delay.

"The development of technology such as ANPR will make sure we make this a hostile environment for those who commit serious or organised crime. Criminals who use the Midlands motorway need to understand that they are vulnerable and if they want to commit crime then they will be caught.

"We are also working on reducing the numbers of those persons killed or seriously injured on the motorways. Tragically recently there have been seven deaths in four or five weeks. We have to look at the causes and work with motorway design, traffic management and other causation factors to help reduce those serious incidents."

A key part of the work of the CMPG is liaising with partners such as the Highways Agency and VOSA - the Vehicle Operator Services Agency - and Ch Supt Jones will be making sure that the partners work together as effectively as possible.

This year there will also be an increased focus on drug and drink-driving aimed at reducing road deaths.

And as well as patrolling the motorways, helping motorists and dealing with incidents, officers also stage monthly surgeries for truckers called "Stammtisch".

The group was one of the pioneers for the approach, where drivers are invited to chat informally to officers and raise any concerns they have about their vehicle or company and can pass on information. Officers can also give advice and basic training and the personal approach is paying dividends in helping to combat crime and improve road safety by taking dangerous trucks and tired drivers off the roads.

Ch Supt Jones is also planning to look at how officers can engage with the motoring public at motorway service areas and through traffic management signs which can be better used to keep drivers informed.

He said: "It is our community that uses the motorways and people want a safe journey and moving traffic and if there is an incident they need to know that police will respond quickly.

"There is nothing more annoying than being stationary on the motorway with a speed limit of 50mph flashing on the gantry and not knowing what is going on. We have to look at how we can work with our partners to get information to the drivers."

Inviting motorists for a coffee and a chat at service areas could be one way forward, where officers will also be able to dispel some of the myths around ANPR and reassure motorists that the cameras are there to target criminals and not as extra speed cameras. They can also educate drivers on issues such as driving while tired, which is a major cause of accidents.

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