Meeting as the Crime and Disorder Committee – to discuss with Councillor Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, his vision for policing in Bracknell Forest, with reference to the priorities in the Police and Crime Plan.
The Chairman welcomed the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Councillor Anthony Stansfeld to the meeting.
Councillor Stansfeld made the following points:
1) To reduce burglary and improve burglary detection rates, performance in the area was already good and detection rates high, however it was still an issue for the area.
2) Safeguarding vulnerable people, this was a major issue. In particular, the human rights of children often hindered safeguarding and work would be undertaken to consider how this could be addressed.
3) Rural crime, this was also a major issue. There had been a significant number of incidents relating to organised crime in the countryside which often involved expensive heavy equipment being stolen. This was having a huge detrimental commercial impact on the countryside.
In response to members’ queries, the Commissioner made the following comments:
· A large proportion of violent crime was fuelled by excessive alcohol consumption. Drugs were also a major issue and were often related to a large proportion of acquisitive crime.
· It was noted that Bracknell Forest would be moving to an 18 hour economy following the regeneration of the town centre and that this was likely to have implications on the level of crime locally. The Commissioner stated that he would offer his support wherever possible, for example in relation to commenting on licensing applications.
· The Commissioner stated that he would do his utmost to communicate with local councils and local communities through visits, the media and his very comprehensive website. In addition, the Commissioner would be supported by his deputy, David Carroll.
· The Commissioner stated that to maximise economies of scale, he felt that policing should be undertaken on a large regional basis and Thames Valley Police had many shared services with adjoining police forces. However the large area he covered did present challenges.
· The Commissioner reported that the thrust of his five year plan did support Bracknell Forest’s medium term objectives and there was close contact with Community Safety partnerships.
· The low turnout at the elections for the Police and Crime Commissioners was due to shortcomings by central government. The next elections were likely to be held in May, together with local elections and the turnout was anticipated to be higher.
· In relation to the Commissioner’s target to achieve a ‘percentage of crimes solved’ detection rate for violence with injury of 45%, he reported that 90% of offenders were known to their victims where violent crime was concerned. He would be considering the use of video conferencing to support victims. In addition, the closing down of a number of magistrates courts had led to victims having to travel a long distance to court and sometimes being in the position of having to share public transport with their offenders, this was clearly unsatisfactory. In response to members’ queries, he stated that he would try to address the issue of fewer magistrates courts.
· The Commissioner reported that central government set the Police pension scheme and the level of contributions made to the scheme was therefore outside of his control. Similar concerns applied to increasing National Insurance costs.
· He stated that all police forces were currently reviewing their accommodation, it was clear that more neighbourhood police posts were needed and these could be co-located with councils and libraries. Policing had changed enormously since large police stations were built, police officers now carried Blackberry’s that could provide them with all the information they needed.
· Effective crime prevention required wide partnership working well beyond the Police, for example in schools and through good parenting.
· Looking ahead, opportunities would include improvements in technology such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition as well as GPS tagging of people which was hugely effective. Some of the major challenges that lay ahead included the economy and the floods of people entering the country from Eastern Europe.
· The volume of resources, manpower and cost dedicated to tackling terrorism was quite considerable. Resources were allocated on a regional basis and it was an area of work that was taken very seriously.
· He felt it was extremely important to work with young people who were at risk of offending. Local youth offending teams would play a key role in this and schools, jobs and poverty also impacted this.
The Executive Member for Culture, Corporate Services and Public Protection thanked the Commissioner for his presentation and acknowledged that drawing up the budget would not have been an easy feat. He also commended the outgoing Police authority for providing a good template for the Commissioner to work on. He reported that over the last five years, Bracknell Forest had seen rates of crime successively drop. Actual numbers of crime were now extremely low and exceeded the targets in the Commissioner’s plan. The targets in the Commissioner’s Plan would therefore be used as a baseline and stretch targets would be used.
Chief Inspector Gilbert reassured the Commission that the partnership working that existed with Bracknell Forest was one of the strongest partnerships he had worked within and everyone had the same focus of reducing crime.
The Chairman wished the Commissioner well for the future and stated that Bracknell Forest would support his work wherever possible.