The Thames Valley should be a hostile environment for criminals. Over recent years with tightening resources Thames Valley Police have done an incredible job of keeping crime low. Behind some of the national newspaper headlines lies the truth that many aspects of violent and acquisitive crime remain historically low, but that does not mean there are not significant challenges to be faced. The role of the police is changing. No longer are the police simply the thin blue line of law and order. There is now a wider role in community safety and protection for the public.
The vital ingredients for an effective police force are not just people and resources but also public confidence. Police & Crime Commissioners can help to enhance that confidence by acting as the link between the public and those who protect them.
I am seeking your support to become Thames Valley PCC in 2020 because I believe that together we can deliver an effective and efficient police force to drive down crime even further. With your support we can make Thames Valley an even better place to work, do business and raise a family.
You can have your say on crime in the Thames Valley and on my priorities, set out below, by clicking here to take part in my policing survey.
Strong local policing
Including rural crime, burglary and visible policing
Neighbourhood policing is the bedrock of law enforcement in the UK. New and emerging threats such as terrorism and high-tech crime have created specialism which are vital to protect the public in the modern world.Yet many of these new areas of policing attract funding and interest to the detriment of more traditional neighbourhood policing.
The public and media rightly demand higher visibility. The merits of local policing, embedded in the community should not be underestimated. Even in the areas of counter-terrorism and serious organised crime it is often neighbourhood police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) that gather the vital intelligence or who are the first on the scene of an incident.
It is notable that both central government and local forces consistently refer back to the nine principles of policing set out by Sir Robert Peel in 1829 when as Home Secretary he established the first modern police force in London. Policing by consent has been the key to preventing crime and disorder ever since and should be not less important nearly two hundred years later.
In study after study, locally and nationally we constantly find that the public expect to not only see police officers, but that they feel safer when they do. We also know that policing can be much more effective when officers know their local communities. There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate the preventative nature of proactive policing. Stopping crime before it starts, rather than simply chasing after people once it does. As Peel said himself, a police force should be judge on the absence of crime and disorder, not the activity of the police themselves.
So whether it is isolated rural communities who have their own concerns about rural crime, or the most deprived areas of our inner cities, the solution is the same. Visible, robust policing, using modern technology and techniques to target the hotspots and prevent crime before it happens.
Fighting serious and organised crime
Including sexual exploitation and county lines drugs gangs
Serious organised crime often seems like a distant concept to many people.Sadly,the effects of gangs and serious organised
crime groups can often be seen in local communities. Whether it is the drug trade, serious violence, people trafficking or sexual abuse, some of the most vulnerable members of our society often become the victims of serious organised crime.
It can take many forms and Thames Valley already take a lead through the South East Serious Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU). Throughout my Police & Criminal Justice Plan the importance of strong neighbourhood policing is emphasised and
once again these crime gangs are not purely the remit of specialist officers. They also need to be tackled through strong local intelligence and action.
Sufficient resource need to be dedicated to these strategic issues to ensure effective local and regional policing.Technology plays a role as does collaboration with security and intelligence agencies. Protection of the public is key and this priority covers those threats that may harm any of us indiscriminately such as terrorism as a well as those that are specifically targeted such as victims of child abuse and exploitation.
Fighting cyber crime and fraud
Equipping the police to tackle modern crimes
Whilst traditional acquisitive crime such as burglary remains the public's greatest concern, and undoubtedly can have a huge impact on victims, a new and arguably greater risk is emerging.
We are all much more likely to be victims of cyber crime, often without even realising it, that we are to be a victim of a "traditional" crime. Fraud and cyber crime covers a wide variety of offences, from corporate fraud within the banking industry that may stretch into billions of pounds, to scam emails the may seek to take just a few pence from a large number of accounts.
Investigating these crimes and bringing people to justice is incredibly complex. Law enforcement agencies across the UK need to significantly improve performance let along the need to tackle these offences of a global scale.
Whilst there is undoubtedly a need for a stronger national/regional focus in order to deliver the specialist technology and expertise to pursue high-tech criminals,local forces also need to properly understand the risks and process in order to better serve the public.
Improving the criminal justice system
Reducing reoffending and delivering justice for victims
The public want to see criminals brought justice, yet the police can only be involved in part of that process. Prevention and detection is the role for Thames Valley Police but there is ,rightly, a separation with other areas of the criminal justice system.
Police & Crime Commissioners have a wider remit and the Government is encouraging PCCs to become more active in other
areas of the Criminal Justice system. Through vehicles such as the Local Criminal Justice Board the PCC can exert influence over other partners. Increased devolution of other areas will give more power to PCCs. Services for victims and more significantly probation provides and opportunity to improve all areas of the system.
Much work will still focus on policing, especially ensuring that evidence is gathered efficiently and effectively to ensure the Crown Prosecution Service are able to prosecute cases effectively. Yet a greater focus needs to be placed on getting cases through the courts successfully, improving access to courts even if that is through the use of technology and particularly around reducing reoffending.
The involvement of PCCs in the new probabtion contracts is a step forward but with proper reform there is a great opportunity to put in place better rehabilitation programmes that may also include the roll out of previously successful pilots such as GPS tagging. Reducing reoffending doesn't just help get people's lives back on track, it reduces future crime.
Tackling illegal encampments
Fair enforcement by the police in partnership with councils and landowners
At the peak of the season illegal encampments can be a significant blight on residents across the Thames Valley.The initial trespass is rarely a police matter, but they are almost always accompanied by reports of anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, theft and intimidation.
Everyone should be treated equally before the law. There are undoubtedly individuals within the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community who consider themselves above the law and they must be held to account. Equally law-abiding members of those transient communities should expect the same protection by the police as permanent residents. This is often seen as a conflict,with static communities either feeling the authorities turn a blind eye, or GRT communities feeling victimised.
The answer is a "firm but fair" approach that has buy-in from representatives of the GRT communities and local authorities. Tackling the criminal elements within GRT communities and making them unwelcome in the Thames Valley is to the benefit of both permanent residents, but also those law-abiding travellers who are all too often victimised because of their background.
There needs to be a redoubling the efforts of partnership working with local authorities and landowners to raise expectations for swift action.Local police areas need to be empowered to take action swiftly to tackle illegal encampments and associated criminality. At the same time local authorities should be proactive in meeting the requirements of the law-abiding GRT community and all partners including the policing will need to work with communities to tackle prejudice and discrimination. The law needs to change to provide a robust framework to address this challenge.