The Portsmouth neighbourhood cop who tackled a 20-strong street gangÂ
A DEDICATED cop who dismantled a 20-strong street gang is today named among winners of The News' first New Year Honours.
Neighbourhood officer 29-year-old Gemma Cooper seized the mantle in tackling the notorious Somers Town Crew - linked to robberies, knife incidents and anti-social behaviour in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth-based acting Sgt Cooper, who started her career 10 years ago as a station enquiry officer, worked for eight months this year to end stop the gang.
Drug dealing, fights and yobbish behaviour plagued people in the city leaving some scared to report incidents to police.
But now the group has been broken up, with some facing prosecution - while others have gone on to change their ways and stay out of trouble.
PC Cooper's efforts are today being recognised by The News alongside those unsung heroes - from environmental campaigners to naval warship commanders - who have improved the lives of those in our area or shown excellence in their field.
After being told she had been named in our awards, PC Cooper said: '˜It's amazing - you do just turn up to work to do your job.
'˜To have people recognise you is really nice - it's a lot of hard work working a lot of extra shifts and not spending as much time with my family. It's nice that that it has been recognised.'
Long hours tackling the Somers Town Crew have been rewarding as after PC Cooper and her colleague's work people are feeling safer.
She said: '˜A lot of people were scared of them. They didn't want to call us and report them. They wouldn't share what would happen.
'˜We did house-to-house where all the children lived and we spoke to all the members of the public and told them what we could do and the phone calls to us went up.'
The gang had come to PC Cooper's attention after separate reports about the Somers Town Crew. She then compiled a report, pulling in intelligence, and bosses agreed the youths should be identified as an urban street group.
'˜We were getting different reports of young individuals who identified themselves as the Somers Town,' she said.
'˜It wasn't until I put together a multi-agency meeting and got everyone round the table that everyone told me all their concerns about children not being at school, knives being involved, drug dealing - it was quite concerning.'
She added: '˜We've managed to safeguard them - some are still being problematic in their own way, they're doing it individually rather than their gang. We've seen a complete reduction. It's nice to know we haven't just moved the problem.'
Her work speaking with other agencies across the city has been applauded by Superintendent Maggie Blyth, Portsmouth police district commander, who said: '˜Gem has shown exceptional leadership skills in the identification, delivery and outcomes achieved by Op Shorebird.
'˜In doing so she has galvanised external partnerships levering in additional support for our 12-17 year olds across the city.'
Supt Blyth added the officer showed '˜exceptional professionalism and resilience shown to a challenging problem'.