A POLICE Sergeant has spoken of his plans to build strong, safe neighbourhoods in the area he grew up in.

Sgt David Smith recently took up the role of Deeside's Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant.

He spoke to the Leader about his activities thus far - and how he hopes to develop a strong community that residents can be proud of.

"When I initially moved here from the Wrexham Town policing team I was on patrol for around 18 months," he explained.

"But Bethan Pritchard, who has been in the Neighbourhood Sergeant role for 12 years, is stepping down - so I am taking on her mantle.

"I'm proud to take on this role the neighbourhood and area I grew up in.

"I know a lot of people here and I am passionate about neighbourhood policing, so I want to do the best I can to make this a safer place to live."

Part of Sgt Smith's early activities in his new position have involved walking around the community and meeting people.

"I've got straight out there," he said.

"I started a blog last week with it being Neighbourhood Policing Week, to give people a better understanding of the role and what we're doing as the Neighbourhood Policing team.

"I've been getting out to meet community groups, visiting community pantries and hubs, places of warmth and safety where people who are struggling gather in the current climate.

"I've been to schools, popping into shops and really just getting my face known - because community policing is all about being accessible and visible, providing that reassurance and building strong relationships.

"It's about working together to make the community a safer place.

"Neighbourhood Policing isn't all about criminalising people - it's a holistic approach.

"A shoplifter might be stealing, for example, because they're struggling to pay for food.

"For some, it's a decision between heating or eating. So our approach is about working with partners to get them the support they need, and that will hopefully break the cycle."

Sgt Smith said he will also be working to instil a sense of community pride by working with council colleagues on 'environmental audits.'

This will entail walkarounds with council officers to identify and address graffiti, damaged street furniture and infrastructure and general untidiness.

"The idea is getting people to take pride in the area they're from," Sgt Smith explained.

"I want to promote a sense of community.

"A lot of people now don't know who they're living next to - neighbours don't talk.

"Bit I want to encourage people to do that and to consider neighbourhood watch schemes.

"Strong communities working together benefit one another."

In terms of his priorities going forward, Sgt Smith said: "In recent weeks, there have been off-road bikes in Connah's Quay.

"We've had a number of reports about that and people will know who these individuals are.

"A lot of them, in the reports we've had, are children and they're riding with no helmets.

"They might think they're having fun, but at what cost?

"They're putting themselves and others at risk.

"We want people to tell us who these individuals are.

"We can work with them to see how we can prevent them riding on the roads and pavements.

"And it's not just Connah's Quay - this is a problem in quite a few areas.

"But the fact is, there's not a lot of facilities for them to ride these bikes.

"They needs somewhere they have permission to ride, because using them on roads and in public spaces is just dangerous.

"They're putting their own lives, and the lives of others, at risk."

Sgt Smith added that while he hopes the issue can be solved by engaging with the young riders, if the behaviour persists he can call on the support of specialised units such as the roads policing team, drone unit and off-road bike unit.

Another of his priorities is building confidence and trust in the police as a whole.

"I have noticed a lack of information from some areas of the public," he said.

"We need intelligence from the community in order to act on issues like drug-dealing and anti-social behaviour and we don't have enough coming through.

"I ask that if there are problems in the area you live, - please ring 101 or report online, or to Crimestoppers.

"I'm keen for my officers to go out there and resolve issues, but we need the information.

"If we don't know, we can't act."

Sgt Smith added his team is also working to identify those responsible for a "spate" of criminal damage incidents involving vehicles in the Flint area.