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South West PCCs and Chief Constables welcome Home Office funding for innovation


South West Regional PCCs and Chiefs in Swindon

Police and Crime Commissioners in the South West are to receive Government funding totalling around £2m for innovative projects.

They discussed the Home Office funding at the first of their regular meetings with regional Chief Constables to be held at Gablecross Police Station in Swindon yesterday (Weds 22 January 2014).

The largest award was almost £1m to transform the use and storage of digital imaging evidence in Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and Avon and Somerset.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, wrote to Commissioners last November to let them know she was launching an Innovation Fund totalling £50m per year from 2014/15. To set the ball rolling, a fund of £20m was made available in the current year.

Mrs May said the money would be awarded for innovative bids which enhanced regional collaboration.

After consultations between the Commissioners and Chief Constables of the five regional constabularies – Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Dorset, and Devon and Cornwall – it was agreed that three joint bids would be submitted.

  1. Regional forensic services collaboration

This is the first five-force forensic collaboration in England and Wales. The aim is to maximise the use of mobile data technology to produce a streamlined state-of-the-art forensics service at a lower cost. It is estimated that phase one of the project will save the five partners £1.9m. The forecast for savings by 2018-19 is that they could exceed £6m.

The Home Office has agreed to contribute £880,000 towards the cost of managing the project.

Phase one will see fingerprint identification, submissions and a drugs analysis unit at Avon and Somerset, fingerprint identification, submissions and chemical enhancement laboratories at Devon and Cornwall and a chemical enhancement laboratory in Gloucestershire. 

  1. Command and control software for tri-force specialist operations

Three of the constabularies - Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset, and Gloucestershire - will invest in a common software platform, called STORM, which will rationalise working practices, allowing the new merged firearms, dogs and policing units to be seamlessly deployed across all three areas. STORM will also provide the teams with much greater resilience.

Devon and Cornwall and Dorset may join the project in the future.

The Home Office has approved £300,000 in 2013/14 and £150,000 in 2014/15.

  1. Transforming the use and storage of digital imaging evidence

This four-force bid will radically transform the way in which digital imagery is used by police, local authority and criminal justice partners in Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and Avon and Somerset.

The intention is to enhance public confidence and reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and disorder.

The project is also designed to improve service to victims, increase time spent on patrol by reducing bureaucracy, and speed up the criminal justice process.

Digital evidence is a vital asset in tackling 21st Century crime. The project will encompass the recording of digital images (by mobile phone, video and stills cameras and CCTV) through to storage, management, sharing, retrieval and disposal of images.

The Home Office has awarded £994,000 in the current year.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “I am pleased that the Home Office has recognised the work that is going on across the South West not only in making policing services better for residents but to ensure that we using the latest technologies, particularly at a time of reducing budgets. 

“All PCCs are paying for the new Innovation Fund out of their police grant from April so we will continue to work hard in the region to make sure that future bids come back to our area. Using new technology is just one of the ways we will be working smarter.”

Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan said: “Each of these three projects offers the potential to transform how we work and with it improve the support we give to our communities.

“Everyone knows the funding picture is a challenging one for the police service and all public sector organisations. These projects will help us save money and strengthen the partnerships we already have with our regional forces. Most importantly it will help us to ensure we provide the best service we can to keep our communities safe and feeling safe.”

Posted on Thursday 23rd January 2014
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