Police & Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, Mr Marc Jones, will be in attendance accompanied by Superintendant Di Coulson of Lincolnshire Police
The Chairman welcomed Mr Marc Jones, Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Inspector James Trafford and Boston Police Inspector, Andy Morrice.
As a reminder, the Committee read out the minute regarding the reason for the original invitation to the Commissioner to attend a BTAC meeting:
“Due to grave concerns in respect of serious issues of safety within the town centre in the evening, coupled with the potential future cuts to policing within the County, Lincolnshire Crime Commissioner Mr Marc Jones be requested to attend a meeting of the committee to identify how such potential future cuts to policing would further impact on Boston.”
The Commissioner began by giving a Powerpoint presentation, which covered:
· The role of a PCC and how it fitted into policing
· The Police and Crime Plan 2017-2021
· The ‘tools’ used by the police: All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), Drones, 4x4s, Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) and Body Worn Videos (BWVs)
· Road Safety, including information on the Road Safety Summit, statistics, Community Speedwatch, the Safer Roads Team and Neighbourhood Policing
· An explanation of the complex nature of policing, with information and case studies on modern slavery, the challenges of change in demand, sex offences and domestic abuse
· Reducing re-offending
· Challenges faced by the police, including assaults on officers and weather conditions
· Public engagement, partnership working, cross-border working and university engagement
· Statistics from the Lincolnshire Crime and Policing Survey for Boston and South Holland
· Financial challenges
The Commissioner stressed that the PCC represented the public to the police and not the other way around and that, although candidates stood for election under a political banner, they became apolitical as soon as they took up the PCC role.
The Commissioner responded to questions and comments as follows.
During discussion of the Community Speedwatch scheme, Members were advised of the different ways to engage with the scheme, such as using reactive signs and/or collecting data and using hand signs in teams. There had only been one incident in the parish area engaging with the scheme and the police would attend to provide back-up if necessary. Where parishes were reluctant to engage with the scheme to tackle speeding issues in the local community in case of reprisals, they could consider engaging in the scheme through each other’s parishes if they wished; participation was definitely to be encouraged.
It was noted that the new process of using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) saved officers considerable time by not having to return to the office to complete paperwork and the process became faster with use.
Mental health issues amongst members of the public were a significant problem for the police, with officers having to spend significant amounts of time accompanying people in Accident and Emergency. The Commissioner sat on the Health and Wellbeing Boards and the Mental Health Board for Lincolnshire to ensure the police were represented. There was a mental health force in the control room now to triage patients rather than necessitating police attendance or attention at A&E; it had diverted 250 people away from these services in its first year and was being extended.
There was a Youth Diversionary Panel in Lincolnshire that successfully avoided the need to involve the criminal justice system through the participation of young people in unpaid work and training courses. Other schemes were to be introduced; working with a former DJ, for example, to gain experience of the music industry as long as they signed up for educational qualifications.
When discussing the fear of crime, the Commissioner was of the view that this was out of perspective and not helped by media reporting of figures of court cases, where many related to people who did not live in Boston. In general, the media was not constructive when it came to balanced reporting of crimes by foreign nationals. There was a complete lack of promotion of the positive aspects of life in the Boston area and a real need for public relations personnel, in particular to attract doctors, for example, to the area.
A Member stressed the importance of the Committee’s concerns regarding community safety, demonstrated by its funding of CCTV cameras and the Mini-Police scheme etc. In particular, the figures relating to knife crime made it appear that it was a similar problem to cities such as Manchester.
The Commissioner responded that knife crime was everywhere and the police had come down heavily on it. There had been an increase across the county in terms of arrests for possession in a similar way to the targeting of drugs, which resulted in figures increasing and a corresponding increase in the perception of crime. Perception was way out of alignment with actual crime; the problem was no more significant than in neighbouring areas such as Stamford, Grantham and Gainsborough. Statistics could be misleading and a public relations professional was needed to portray the truth; it was a real challenge.
Boston’s Policing Inspector agreed, stating that Boston did not have a problem with knife crime. No child had been excluded for taking a knife into school. There had been some historical issues with respect to domestic-related murders. Reports of use or threat had been consistent in the last two years.
A Member raised concerns about the increase in council tax for the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, in view of Government’s reserves, particularly due to the low level of wages in the Boston area and the jobs that had been cut despite the increase in the precept.
The Commissioner explained the Government’s grant was not comparable across the country and additional funding had been consumed to pension liability changes. Reserves held had not been for police resources. Lincolnshire’s police budget was amongst the lowest and it had been considered prudent to stay with that. There were inequalities in the system. The Government formula was broken, but it was very difficult to change and if the grant was increased other areas would receive less. Reserves had been used the previous year, but this could not be done again in the current year and it did not cover overheads.
A Member suggested that the police could use special constables, as they were an excellent, low-cost resource. In particular, they could deal with cars that had no tax or MOTs.
The Commissioner agreed that they were an extremely valuable resource, but there was still a cost, particularly in terms of training and, as there was a limited number of trainers, their numbers had actually halved. There would be an increase in use of specialist officers, for example, to deal with cyber-crime. The police had recently acquired the ability to seize cars, but this was not a top priority, though it did help to tackle organised crime. People wanted the police to deal with various important issues, but they all took up resources, which were being stretched ever further.
A Member commended the work of the police and recognised its finite resources and expressed the view that the fear of crime was worse years ago, though it would be good to see more action with respect to minor crimes, which led people to worse crimes, and that there be more police officers even if it meant paying more. Another referred to problems experienced with the 101 service with officers not attending or ringing callers back.
The Commissioner stressed that the limited resources available to the police had to be prioritised and directed to the greatest need, which was constantly changing. It was sometimes the case that, when the police stated they would attend an incident, they then prevented from doing so by an incident of greater need, though it would be helpful if they could communicate this. Sometimes, members of the public could not be given information if they were witnesses. There was a regional forensics body funded across five forces that gathered evidence, but it would be a waste of resources to use them in some cases, even if it would make people feel better, and they had to be upfront about this. It was getting more difficult to obtain evidence to progress cases. They needed to prevent people becoming victims of crime in the first place.
The Chief Inspector added that it would be highly advantageous to adopt Zero Tolerance to crime, but they would need to multiply resources.
A Member referred to the community learning to live together and that the Council should promote community cohesion.
In response, the Commissioner referred to a specific campaign to recruit Eastern European officers and PCSOs and added that the Mini-Police officers were also diverse. Boston had come through significant changes, but the area was very safe; there were issues, but they had to be kept in perspective and the past had to be looked at realistically.
The Chairman thanked the invited guests for their input and this was echoed by Committee Members.
The Committee heard that Inspector Morrice would be working out of the force for six months and that Inspector Fran Harrod would attend BTAC meetings in his place when possible.