Nouse interviews local policing Inspector Lee Pointon


Insp Pointon discusses how his team are supporting students in York

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Image by North Yorkshire Police

By Josh Rutland

Last month Nouse interviewed Inspector Lee Pointon, one of two neighbourhood policing Inspectors based in York. Inspector Pointon has completed nearly 25 years of service with North Yorkshire Police (NYP), with experience in the drugs squad, custody desk and force control room.

Nouse began by asking Inspector Pointon what drew him to neighbourhood policing, a department he has worked in for over a decade. He explained that “neighbourhood policing allows you to make the biggest difference in our communities, working with people, listening to people...and it’s making a difference that I’m quite passionate about”. He described the links with students as a “massive part of our community here in York”.

Focussing on student matters, Nouse asked Inspector Pointon which issues most impact students in York. He said “the one that we can’t avoid to discuss is violence against women and girls, whether that’s drink spiking in nightclubs, domestic violence behind closed doors or violence, which is the biggest one”.

He continued: “What I would say to anyone suffering any sort of violence, whether male or female, we will listen and we’ll work with you and respect what you want”. With reference to those unsure about police involvement, he told Nouse: “people don’t need to suffer in silence – there’s loads of agencies out there and we will respect your wishes”.

Nouse asked whether the Home Office’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy, announced last year, had changed North Yorkshire Police’s approach. The Inspector said “I don’t think our approach has changed, I think it was about right, but it’s probably sharpened our focus”.

He continued: “An offence that wouldn’t have got scrutinised as much previously will now get scrutinised. If there is a [case of] violence against women it will go through a system whereby it’s checked that we’ve done everything we physically, mentally can do to make sure we’re offering the best service to the victim”.

With specific discussion on drink spiking in York, the officer explained that “we have a force-wide operation that collects all the data on spiking, but the advice to students is don’t leave your drinks unattended, don’t accept drinks off strangers...and remain more cautious if going out with people you don’t know”. He described the early evidence kits now used by NYP, enabling officers to test for drugs if you report a suspected spiking soon enough.

Discussing attitudes towards drink spiking, Inspector Pointon explained: “The really positive thing about how the police have changed is, where once students were seen as ‘too drunk’ or ‘can’t handle their alcohol’, we don’t have that approach anymore, and if any students come across that approach then it’s something that needs to be raised”.

The Inspector advised all students that “personal safety is really important and that’s about going out as a group, returning as a group”. He also discussed other issues such as the dangers of unregistered taxis in York alongside river safety, warning that the River Ouse “will take lives, it has done in the past and it will continue to”.

Nouse then asked about drug dealing in York. The officer replied “I don’t see it as a significant problem, but I’d be very naïve to think that young people weren’t taking drugs”. He continued: “I don’t condone it...but our stance isn’t so much enforcement but instead offering help, advice [and] support. We can give you a criminal record, but if we don’t address why you’re taking drugs you’re going to carry on doing it”.

Nouse was also keen to understand how NYP connects with the student body. The Inspector claimed “the student community is a difficult community to get into” with reference to individuals only being in York for a few years during their studies before moving on.

He continued: “We try and respond and provide the service you want...we’ve changed in the police in a big way, from coming in and telling you what you can’t do and now we tell you what you can do, to support students”.

Examining the importance of partnership working, Nouse asked how local neighbourhood teams liaise with other agencies. Inspector Pointon explained “without partnership working, our job would fail” and that “we link in very closely with the University of York security teams, we link very closely with the welfare teams at the University as well as the drug and alcohol agencies”.

In terms of the City of York Council, he continued: “We have the Community Safety Hub, based within the City of York Council offices who work together on complex cases...noise is a prime example, where students are having a party, that goes straight to the council to deal with and we’ll only get involved if we need to”.

Nouse also asked how NYP is performing in terms of the Government’s police recruitment uplift programme. While Inspector Pointon did not have numerical data to hand, he explained how “there’s a lot of student officers now coming towards the end of their tutorship – that’s massive and quite a significant number of officers that are now coming out onto the streets, making our communities feel safer”. He explicitly said that “the uplift was really important for us as getting numbers back on the street within the community, serving the community is vital”.

Concluding the interview, Inspector Pointon asked Nouse to pass on his key advice: “Don’t be afraid to come and say hello to team is predominantly PCSOs and there’s nothing they like more than a cup of coffee and a chat, that’s what they’re there for”. He reminded students to “stay with your friends, stay in a group” when out at night and conveyed that “I’m not telling people not to have fun, but be safe”.

Editors note: The interview was conducted on 27 October 2022.