PROTECTING vulnerable people and maintaining Headington, Marston and Barton as safe places to live are the top priorities for the city's north east neighbourhood police.

The new-look team, headed up by Sergeant Andrew Poole, has pounded the pavements in a bid to build its priorities around the public.

Formed during the summer as part of the changes to Thames Valley Police's operating model, the neighbourhood team of Sgt Poole, four PCs and six PCSOs is settling into the Barton and Marston offices.

Sgt Poole, who has been in the force since 2007, told the Oxford Mail the team was 'getting out on the ground' to find out the different issues across Barton, Risinghurst, Marston and Headington.

The police officer said he expected local priorities to differ between the areas.

He added: "I do like neighbourhood policing, we build relationships.

"We are feeling out what the priorities are going to be for the neighbourhoods and we want to reach out to as many people as we can."

Sgt Poole said the needs between the communities were 'very different,' and added the team was already aware of vulnerable people being exploited in Barton by drug dealers.

He said talking to the many community groups in Headington was one way to learn what residents wanted from the police.

Sgt Poole added: "For Headington it's about protecting vulnerable people from crime.

"People tend to come in to Headington to commit crimes.

"They are safe places to live and we want to try and maintain that.

"Anything you are concerned about, come and find is."

The new-look neighbourhood police teams across the city have been developing links with people to drive drug dealers from communities in a bid to reduce other crimes and prevent vulnerable people being exploited.

One process, called ‘cuckooing’, has been noted as a growing issue across the city’s neighbourhoods and has resulted in a rise of other crimes.

Cuckooing sees drug dealers move into the homes of vulnerable people and run their criminal operations from there.

The latest statistics on Thames Valley Police's crime maps for Barton and Risinghurst showed there were 41 crimes reported in August this year, 15 of which were of violent and sexual offences.

In Marston and Headington, there were 190 crimes reported in August, including 24 burglaries, 24 incidents of anti-social behaviour and 24 violent and sexual offences.