Posted: Friday 10th January 2014
I have many hopes and plans for how I would like to see 2014. I want to see crime continue to fall, particularly burglary, domestic and sexual violence and the impact of antisocial behaviour in our local communities reduce.
I am also looking forward to the changes that are underway in the Constabulary which will see a better service for local people ensuring that resources are put in the places that need it most.
There has been a lot of discussion about the Constabulary’s ‘big operational change,’ this week and the full picture will become clearer over the next few months. I have seen the extensive work that took place in the summer to inform the change. Last August the police looked in fine detail at the calls and requests for service over a 24-hour period. The results were staggering with 4,979 requests for the police, including 3,821 calls to the force service centre. What was a surprise was only one quarter of those calls was to report a crime or incident. Only 14% of people wanted the police to attend, nearly a quarter related to rowdy and nuisance behaviour and 48 people were reported missing. It really does give a fascinating and interesting picture of your local police service especially when you think it was only one 24-hour period.
While the change in the way the police operate is forced by having to find savings the main driver is about responding to local people’s needs. With a smaller workforce a higher proportion will need to be out on the streets preventing crime, dealing with incidents as they happen.
The police will need to find over £8 million of savings next year, on top of the £35 million savings that have already been found. It is no secret that the police service is getting smaller. Soon I will be setting the police budget for the year which could see the policing part of the council tax increase by a few pounds a year for the average household. Even with an increase it will not mean that the police will be saved from further job losses, up to 200 jobs will be lost. In some areas cuts have been reduced through working together with neighbouring police forces, such as the joint working with Wiltshire and Gloucestershire on firearms, road policing and dog handlers. While there are losses, approximately 8-9 dog handlers in Avon and Somerset will return to policing, these have been significantly minimised by the three police forces working together. The police dogs and horses do an impressive job and we need to explore ways to make them sustainable as budgets reduce. This is why it is so important for the police to understand the demand they need to respond to and shape the organisation that will be fit for the future. The pressure is on and I have to ensure the police get it right for local people.
Another personal wish of mine for 2014 is to increase the number of opportunities for volunteers to get involved in policing. I want to see Special Constables reach 700 in my term in office and police volunteers increase to 1,000. So if you have a New Year’s resolution that involves doing something different and challenging yourself please think of volunteering. Only by working together with a sense of community spirit can we help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and help keep our neighbourhoods safer.
Happy New Year Sue