WHEN Sergeant Colin Travi moved to Kidlington police station in 2010 the now quiet village had a gang culture spiralling “out of control”.

Now after his last day on Wednesday working there, Sgt Travi has spoken about how engaging with residents and earning their trust has helped eliminate the problem five years on.

When Sgt Travi moved from Bicester police station to Kidlington, his role was expanded to include being Neighbourhood Sergeant.

The position meant he played a key role in the Neighbourhood Action Watch Group, consisting of various community members including councillors, teachers and youth groups responsible for agreeing solutions such as dispersal orders.

During his first few years, he was overwhelmed by how prone the village was to gang and antisocial behaviour and recalls a fight on the High Street in his first few months.

Sgt Travi said: “Antisocial behaviour was out of control and we had gangs at the time resulting in kids carrying weapons.

“There were five or six arrested in the High Street and they were punching and kicking each other. For your average Joe Public it was quite shocking to see in the middle of the High Street.”

According to the 48-year-old, crime in the village was centred around two opposing gangs consisting of about 10 key suspects.

On one occasion later in 2010, the two gangs were fighting outside the Exeter Hall when a member came out of a car with a wooden mallet.

He added: “At Exeter Hall we were just there talking to the youths. Then I remember seeing this car come along and thinking ‘that looks familiar’ and then next thing someone had come round with a wooden mallet.”

The man was arrested and turned out to be one of the key gang members.

Sgt Travi said the other members became more aware of police presence following the arrest and gang trouble began to decline.

But the previous problems had convinced him, along with fellow colleagues, to devise a new approach to crime in the village.

He admits there was a gap in relations between the force, residents, communities and the parish council, and so he embarked on a mission to bring the community together, saying it was one of his proudest moments.

Sgt Travi added: “There was a deprived area of Kidlington where drug use was rife, with high antisocial behaviour and gangs.

“People were in fear.

“We got the residents in this area together with the anti-social behaviour officer and we all sat round in a boardroom and they told us what it was like, so we as police targeted the main protagonists.

“The most beautiful thing about that was that the residents themselves began to reclaim their community and they started organising community events themselves.

“Once we all started to work together as one, the antisocial behaviour disappeared.”

Through these meetings, and a new level of trust that ensued, a wave of new information came in from residents in the form of calls and emails enabling officers to target key suspects.

A similar success story occurred in Yarnton when the force broke into a house following new information from residents about traffic, noise and the smell of cannabis.

Mr Travi describes it as a “proud achievement” because the residents of Yarnton began to co-operate with police in a way they previously had not.

During 2011/12 he recalls a total of 22 drug warrants that were executed and marks it as a turning point because police focus turned to prevention, calling it “social work in uniform”.

Soon the force in the village were focusing on hosting crime prevention seminars, going into care homes to work with vulnerable people and researching why youths would cause problems.

He added: “I think the nature our work has changed over the past 18 months.

“We are doing more ‘social work in uniform’.

“Things like prevention enforcement and have your say questionnaires where we ask residents what is it you think needs dealing with.”

Sgt Travi will now move on to Abingdon police station as as custody sergeant.