Posted: Friday 30th October 2015
A real debate has begun on the impact of the government’s proposed cuts on the police service. There has been a number of stories about the era of routine patrols by "bobbies on the beat" coming to an end and some people have questioned whether this would be an end to the neighbourhood policing model. In Britain we police by consent and the relationships built on the ground by neighbourhood policing teams are fundamental for policing to work and be effective. I am very clear that neighbourhood policing has a fundamental role in our police service and will be protected as much as possible.
There is no doubt that we are facing a huge challenge in Avon and Somerset and there will certainly be no easy options in dealing with the scale of cuts anticipated. The police service does not have a ring-fenced budget and has been told to expect a 25% to 40% reduction in funding from the government in November's Comprehensive Spending Review. Going forward there will clearly be fewer ‘bobbies on the beat.’ We’ve already lost 600 officers in Avon and Somerset and I expect this number to rise in its hundreds over the next four years.
The Home Office continue to state that crime is falling and they are right in principal however the profile of crime is changing new and complex crimes such as cybercrime, human trafficking and child sexual exploitation are rising. Dealing with this changing crime landscape is more resource-intensive, time-consuming and complicated. For example in Avon and Somerset child sexual exploitation crime has increased by 53% over the past year, which means 7,000 more crimes involving victims who are extremely vulnerable. Crimes involving vulnerable adults have increased by 141%, and a growing elderly population suggests this area of work could grow. It’s a very different picture of crime to 40 years ago when Avon and Somerset Constabulary was first formed and today’s police service is adapting to be able to cope with these demands.
I was privileged this week to attend the national Police Bravery Awards which celebrates the exceptional bravery of police officers in extremely difficult and dangerous situations. This year 64 officers from 38 police forces were nominated including an officer from Avon and Somerset, PC Ali Price. PC Price administered first aid to a man who had suffered multiple stab wounds and had lost a significant amount of blood. He used his own T-shirt to try and stem the blood loss from the puncture wound and was aided by an off duty nurse until an ambulance crew arrived. PC Price put his duty to protect life before his own safety and his quick thinking and positive action saved a man’s life
Next week I will be hosting my third public forum in Bristol at Broadmead Baptist Church, Wednesday, November 4 at 6.45pm. It’s vital that people have direct access to me and the police to ask any questions they might have about policing in their local area. There is a lot of change coming and as we deal with the cuts from central government it’s important that I hear from local people about what matters to them where they live.