As requested by the Panel at its last meeting, Inspector Gareth Boxall will be in attendance to answer questions raised during the Crime and Disorder Partnership update.
At the last meeting of the Performance Monitoring Panel, a Crime and Disorder update had been received where a number of issues had been raised. The Panel had requested that the Police Inspector and the Member of Parliament be requested to attend the meeting. Sir John Hayes, MP was not able to attend however, Inspector Gareth Boxall was in attendance, and the Chairman welcomed him to the meeting.
The Panel raised a number of issues, and Inspector Boxall responded, as detailed below:
· What was the difference between a Public Order Disturbance and Anti Social Behaviour?
o Inspector Boxall responded that a Public Order Disturbance was an offence against the Public Order Act, which could involve anything from disorderly conduct through to a riot. Anti Social Behaviour was a far wider area and could encompass many things. There were differing methods in which the two could be dealt with. Criminal offences could be dealt with through the court, and the Anti Social Behaviour Act gave powers to deal with Anti Social Behaviour (this replaced the previous Anti Social Behaviour Orders), and dealt with behaviour that fell below a public order disturbance but which caused offence.
· Several parish councils had expressed dissatisfaction with support provided from the Police. Did the Inspector feel this was because the Lincolnshire force was under funded?
o Inspector Boxall commented that the Lincolnshire police force was underfunded, and that the Chief Constable was on record as saying that it was poorly funded. The area did not have the same problems as urban areas however, there were still particular problems to be faced in rural areas. All forces now faced problems of crime developing in different ways, and emerging crime types such as cyber crime and internet fraud, whereas in the past, crime followed a more traditional route.
· A constant complaint from the public was that they did not see many police officer on the beat – was this because they were being taken off the beat to deal with more specialist crime?
o Inspector Boxall stated that there were many reasons for there being less police on the beat, but that specialisms in particular areas was only one reason for this. Overall, police officers having specialisms in a particular area was a good way of dealing with crime.
· The Lincolnshire Police force had been under funded for a long time, and the situation was not improving. It should at least have the same level of funding as other forces.
o Inspector Boxall replied that there would never be enough money as policing covered so many aspects – as well as carrying out investigations, preventative work also needed to be undertaken. However, the Panel was advised that the Chief Constable was pushing for a fairer funding formula, and that the extra police recently promised by the government would help. The Chief Constable had spoken about preparing for around 350-400 over the next few years, and the Inspector would be making representations to ensure that this area received a fair proportion of these officers. The 350-400 would include replacing officers who left over that period of time. Officers left for a variety of reasons and these would have to be covered, but the recruitment would see a significant uplift in the total number of officers.
· The Panel commented that the funding position would not be changing in the short term, and that society was changing in its regard to authority. How would the Police be able to keep order in the longer term?
o In answering, Inspector Boxall provided some context to his response, stating that South Holland was a safe place to live, it did not have the same difficulties as inner cities, and generally the public respected authority. Prison terms for a crime committed was important however, efforts also needed to be made to ensure people did not return to crime.
· Members responded that these points were relevant however, problems usually associated with urban areas, for example, drug related crime, were now affecting rural areas. Crime was measured, and the types of crime affecting the area did not make residents feel particularly safe.
o Inspector Boxall commented that he had some concerns around publishing figures for violent crime, as the full story could not be seen from the statistics alone. Violent crime may have increased however, it had not doubled – such a large increase was due to the change in the way crime was recorded. It was impossible to draw any firm conclusions as a result of these changes. Violent crime could now be categorised as either with or without sustaining injury and it was therefore difficult to see if violent crime had increased. In addition, the majority of violent crimes occurred in the home, where it was difficult to prevent (i.e this was not a problem that could be solved by putting more police on the streets). The Police were undertaking work to prevent domestic abuse however, it was difficult to prevent violence in the home. Any increases that were now seen were due to more reporting of abuse.
· How many additional police were being recruited, and how many of these would be allocated to South Holland?
o Inspector Boxall advised that exact numbers had not yet been finalised however, figures indicated by the press were around 350 over the next 2-3 years.
· Member asked if the figure would be for additional officers and stated that the public would expect it to be in addition to the normal complement of officers.
o Inspector Boxall responded that it was likely that the number of officers to be replaced, that left each year, would be included within the figure for additional recruits.
· Funding was an important issue– the public believed that nothing was being done to improve the situation however, if incidents were not reported, funding would not be increased.
o Inspector Boxall agreed that it was important that people reported crime, so that criminals could be caught, or if they weren’t at least a picture could be built up of what was happening. Reporting was required in order to get funding resources for the area, and to help the police in allocating resources appropriately.
· With regard to specialisms in detecting high-tech crimes, what percentage of staff were non-warranted professionals?
o Inspector Boxall advised that when there had been funding cuts in the past, there had been some forward planning and where police officers were in post, their warranted jobs had been used. Some were in office jobs because that was where they were needed, but there were some civilian staff aswell. Expertise could be recruited where needed.
· Members commented that all new recruits were meant to have a degree and they were aware but the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire did not agree with this.
o Inspector Boxall confirmed that having a degree, or the undertaking to complete one, was the main way into the Police force. The Chief Constable was not in agreement with this requirement, and the outcome of this view remained to be seen.
· Over the years, a lot of funding had gone into CCTV – had it been effective in reducing crime or did it simply move crime to areas where there was no CCTV? In addition, were there adequate resources to act on incidents captured by CCTV?
o It was difficult to say whether crime had reduced as a result of CCTV as there could be not measure of what was not there. The Inspector felt that it was effective, and there was no evidence to say that crime had moved to different areas. There were two main benefits from CCTV – firstly, operators could advise on crime as it happened, and incidents for officers to attend could be prioritised; and secondly, CCTV could be used after the event to either capture what had happened, or view footage of who had undertaken a crime.
· When South Holland District Council and the Parish Councils had originally decided to fund CCTV, one of the requests was that statistical evidence be fed back to justify the spend. There had been no consistent feedback of this information since in had been installed and some Parish Councils now felt that without it, they may consider withdrawing funding.
o The Inspector commented that CCTV was a tool to assist in the detection of crime, and would be against taking it out of any area. Providing evidence to justify spend was very difficult as the Police in Spalding did not keep their own records, and it was difficult to show statistically that it had made a difference.
· Members were disappointed with this response. CCTV had been installed twice with the requirement that some statistical information be fed back to show its worth.
· Many District Councillors regularly attended Parish Councils meetings, and the level of support by the Police in attendance and providing information to Parish Councils has decreased to a very large extent. Parish Councils required feedback.
o The Inspector commented that with reduced resources, it was important to make the best use of staff time and it was not always right that, for example, a PCSO attend meetings when some issues were beyond their control. Most forces did not send officers to Parish Council meetings however, non attendance did not mean that the relationship with Parish Councils should be abandoned – it needed to continue with information being shared in other ways such as email/text/social media etc. In addition, more information was now available of Parish Councils to view on the internet.
· Members responded that some work had to be undertaken with regard to liaison between the Police and Parish Councils. Members that were already involved with Parish Councils were not happy with the current situation. Most were anxious to have a close working relationship with the Police and it would be helpful to find a way to improve engagement.
o The Inspector replied that he didn’t disagree with these comments. Consideration was being given to how neighbourhood policing could be reformed, and how communities and Parish Councils were engaged with.
· Members suggested that an annual meeting could be held, involving the Police, the PCC and Parish Councils – face to face contact worked better. It was also suggested that it would be better to hold regular meetings, with regular contact between teams and parishes.
· Many initiatives were being undertaken, but unless people followed the Police on social media, it was not well publicised. How could Councillors support the Police in publicising their initiatives?
o The Inspector commented that the Police relied on individuals, such as Councillors, following them on social media. However, not everyone used social media and it was vital to find a way to get the message out in different ways. Consistent messaging was vital, but not just on social media. Consideration was being given to producing a newsletter to be sent to anybody in the local area, and a less frequent for District Councillors and partners, which would provide more detail, statistics and context.
· The Chairman asked if the Police’s Facebook page could be linked to Crowland Chatter?
o The Inspector advised that it could not be linked however, Crowland Chatter could ‘follow’ the Police and share posts.
· The public obtained much of its information and dis-information from social media. It was important that facts were made readily available to the public.
o Inspector Boxall responded that the Police did what they could to dispel myths however, there was a resource implication to this. The Police also needed to be careful of the level of information they released where there was an ongoing investigation – for this reason, it was not always possible to correct rumours when they arose.
· Councillor King commented on the continued vandalism problems in her ward. The public reported problems to Parish Councillors who then reported incidents to the Police. There was a perception that not enough was being done, that there was insufficient feedback and that there should be more of a Police presence.
o The Inspector replied that there were processes for assessing how the Police could best deal with reported crime in light of low staffing numbers. Officers would attend unless a higher priority incident arose. If the member was not happy with the service that was being received regarding these incidents, she should contact him in order to pursue this.
· With regard to the additional community payback funding, whose responsibility was it to pay for the supervision of offenders?
o The Inspector commented that community payback was an effective way of punishing and rehabilitating people. He commented that the community payback scheme fell under the remit of the probation service, but could not confirm who was responsible for paying for the supervision of offenders.
· Members requested that this information be ascertained and fed back to the Panel.
· Members questioned how reliable reported crime figures were. If they were unreliable, how could the Police have any indication of emerging or escalating crime in the area? If the data was not manageable, the public may have little confidence in report crime.
o The Inspector agreed that interpreting crime statistics was very difficult, due to changes over the years to how crimes were recorded and how forces implemented rules. He advised however that data could be used in many ways, by allowing the Police to draw from detail of crime recorded, and how to resource in appropriate areas. There was always a point in reporting and recording crime, and he hoped that crime reporting settled down in order that comparisons could be made.
· The Chairman thanked Inspector Boxall for attending the meeting and hoped that it had been helpful for him and for Panel members. The Performance Monitoring Panel received regular reports on crime and disorder, they would consider the information provided by the Inspector and advise if they needed to speak to him any further. He hoped that there would be an improvement in liaison with the Police and Parish Councils. He also asked that the suggestion to hold annual meetings involving the Police, the PCC and Parish Councils, and regular meetings between teams and parishes be given consideration.