JUST A few weeks into her new job as Hastings District Commander, Heather Keating speaks to reporter Hannah Collisson about her priorities for tackling crime in the town.
HAVING returned to the town where she first served as a police officer two decades ago, Chief Inspector Heather Keating is already getting stuck into her new role as the new district commander.
Early in her career, chief inspector Keating served in Hastings as a response sergeant and detective sergeant, and is happy to be back.
“I am really looking forward to working in Hastings, the town of what was really my first promotion.” she said.
Crime in Hastings is at a seven-year low, and she is keen to build upon the successes of her predecessors, yet is realistic about the challenges that lie ahead.
Speaking of the economic climate, and increased deprivation for many, she said: “These are clearly challenging times in which to be reducing crime, and it is a top priority.
“It would be foolish to think that we can continue to reduce crime at the same rate we have been.”
She added that police forces across the country were seeing the rate of crime reduction plateau.
Chief inspector Keating, 43, took up her position as Hastings’ top police officer in the New Year, replacing Chief inspector Laurence Taylor.
Chief inspector Taylor had been in the post since June 2011, when the then district commander chief inspector Mark Ling was suspended for sending an offensive text message.
He was subsequently found guilty of gross misconduct, received a final written warning, and has taken up a crime management role in Eastbourne.
Chief inspector Keating has 24 years of service under her belt, having joined the police force aged 19.
Most recently chief inspector Keating served as head of force counter terrorism intelligence unit, based in Crawley, and before this as district commander for Rother, until June last year.
She said that essentially both district commander roles are the same, but with slightly different challenges.
“It is about providing an effective presence in neighbourhoods,” she said. “We have got some wards in Hastings that are the most deprived in the country.”
She is keen to point out that the police do not work in isolation, but alongside a broad spectrum of partners including the borough council, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, Trading Standards, Revenue and Customs, the voluntary sector, and housing and health services.
A major challenge for policing in the current climate is financial, and East Sussex is no exception, with the police force last year undergoing a period of restructuring to increase efficiency.
Chief inspector Keating is keen to focus on the positives that have come out of these changes.
“I do genuinely believe the way we have re-structured will enable us to provide a better service locally.
“I am very passionate about having everything we do before and with the public.
“What is really rewarding is to feel that you are reducing risk and reducing harm.”
As chief inspector Keating sees it, effective neighbourhood policing is the key, and she intends to convert the knowledge gained from working closely with communities, into actions and results, drawing from her experience in counter intelligence.
Chief inspector Keating plans to focus on reducing those crimes which have the most impact on people’s lives, including anti-social behaviour, burglary, criminal damage, and violent crime including domestic violence and sexual offences.
“I will also be focusing hard on prolific offenders,” she said. “Ten per cent of offenders commit 50 per cent of crime. I will be looking closely at who those few are.”
Along with effective policing in neighbourhoods, her priorities include building on local relationships and improving the public perception of the police, and working closely with partner groups and agencies.
“I am quite a people oriented person, and policing is all about people,” she added.