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Thames Valley homicide team wins excellence award

A crime unit handling a significant increase in violent offences has won a Federation award.

Officers tackling “unprecedented” levels of serious crime have received an award for excellence.

Thames Valley’s major crime unit has received a Thames Valley Police Federation Team Excellence Award for its work investigating homicides, which have almost doubled in the region over recent months.

Despite this, the team succeeds in charging offenders in over 95% of cases.

The core team that deals with homicide is relatively small, comprising 35 Detective Constables, 11 Detective Sergeants, four Detective Inspectors and four Detective Chief Inspectors.  

The unit also has a complex child sexual exploitation team, a review team for cold cases, and a small team dedicated to the Didcot Power Station investigation.

They are increasingly busy; force data revealed the team is dealing with up to two new major investigations a month – but peak activity has seen officers responding to three incidents a week.

Most is linked to drug dealing and organised crime.

A recent study by the University of Cambridge into gang activity in the force’s area found gang members are 56 times more likely to become a victim of violence, with an associate usually responsible.

At the start of the month, the Home Office confirmed the force is getting £7m over the next three years for its Violence reduction Unit – included was £2m of Grip funding for proactive operations.

Supt Kevin Brown, who leads the unit, said: “Over the past 14 to 16 months we’ve sadly seen a huge rise in homicides and serious violence, so much so that it’s almost double our usual amount. We have seen a rise in cases involving mental health, a rise in cases where it’s intra-familial, so siblings on parents for instance, as well as more recognisable domestic violence.

“Knife-enabled crime has gone up significantly, some to do with drug use but also sadly more cases of young teenagers who have died of knife wounds.”

He said the award would be a huge boost for the team: “The team are very humble people and they don’t do this for recognition, they do it because they want to make things better for bereaved families. But they’re really pleased to be recognised.

“They are putting themselves out there every single day, as a lot of police officers do, but particularly in the early stage of an investigation they can be working 15-20 hours a day for two to three weeks.”

Supt Brown also thanked the unofficial support networks of people who help the officers do the job.

He said: “The disruption to officers’ home lives is huge and I’m thankful for the support of their families too.”

The force’s Fed said the team were delivering at the level of a major city.

Thames Valley Police Federation Chair Craig O’Leary said: “The Major Crime Unit has had to investigate an unprecedented level of murders and serious crimes, and there has been a real impact on the officers when they have a county-force size team and budget but are dealing with large inner-city-level demand.” 

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