Under the Conservatives, there has been a 20,000 reduction in police strength in England & Wales since 2010. In Wiltshire, this has meant a 16% reduction to police numbers. Of the 43 police forces in England & Wales, Wiltshire Police now have the second lowest number of officers per 100,000 population. Many crimes are being left without meaningful investigation: for example, 72% of vehicle crimes are screened out.
The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has overseen the introduction of a cuts-driven “Community Policing” model. This amalgamated neighbourhood policing, response teams and local crime investigators into 7 large Community Policing Teams, which, with the closure (or planned closure) of police stations in towns such as Calne, Cricklade and Malmesbury, are based remotely from many of the communities that they meant to serve.
We are pleased that the PCC has recognised that this model has been too reactive and has accepted the need to reintroduce dedicated neighbourhood policing teams. We are also pleased that after 10 years of cuts, the Government is increasing funding to enable police numbers to grow back to the record level achieved by the last Labour Government.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, our candidate Cllr Junab Ali will:
- Recruit additional police officers and PCSOs to return capacity back to the 1,229 Full Time Equivalent achieved in 2009.
- Use this increased capacity to effectively reinstate neighbourhood policing, with dedicated neighbourhood teams working within the community, being visible, accessible, skilled and familiar. This policing model enables the gathering of local intelligence and community concerns to enable prompt, effective and targeted action. It is a model that has been proved to work.
- Provide local bases for the neighbourhood policing by re-opening local police stations (where the property has been retained) or by providing suitable accommodation in other public buildings.
- Rural crime, including Agricultural, Wildlife, Environmental and Heritage Crime, requires specialist expertise. We will increase dedicated resourcing for this (from the currently two full-time equivalents) and work with partners through the Swindon & Wiltshire Rural Crime Partnership to develop priorities, strategies and build effective intelligence networks.
- Be transparent about the performance of the police force against a range of leading and lagging indicators. Unlike the incumbent PCC, we will regularly publish a Scorecard with actual scoring against it.
We will increase focus on tackling “County Lines” criminal drugs networks, which ruthlessly target and exploit children and vulnerable adults. We acknowledge the progress made in tackling County Lines gangs operating in Wiltshire and in the establishment of National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC). However, we think more could be done, including:
- Improving intelligence gathering and sharing processes with the NCLCC and other forces.
- A stronger emphasis on neighbourhood policing is crucial for improving contact and trust with the local community and gaining insights and intelligence through local presence.
- Building collaboration with other agencies involved in child protection, such as social services and schools. We also recognise that greater investment in front-line child protection through social services plays a critical role.
- Greater use of existing sanctions to disrupt county lines networks, such as telecommunications restriction orders and serious crime prevention orders.
We’ll ensure that meaningful action to tackle Domestic Abuse is made a priority. We’ll continue to fund Wiltshire Phoenix project, offering a single pathway into the range of support services available in the county. We’ll also ensure that Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Police take leading roles in ensuring an effective multi-agency approach is taken to reducing domestic violence, including:
- Working with schools to raise awareness and challenge attitudes among young people, and equipping teachers with the skills to identify signs of domestic violence.
- Publicity campaigns to raise awareness of domestic abuse, enabling victims to identify the signs and know how to seek help.
- Providing a range of options for victims to disclose abuse and seek help.
- Providing support to victims with reporting to the police and engaging with the criminal justice system.
- Getting support in place to victims to help them deal with both the emotional and practical issues of moving on.
- Ensuring a framework of training, awareness and effective liaison is in place across the various agencies involved, including police, courts, social services, health services, and schools
We also recognise that preventing crime is also about investing in the social fabric of our communities. Wiltshire Council used to employ 150 youth workers running 24 different clubs and services for young people. Since 2014, these services have been decimated, and reduced to meeting statutory obligations only, such as the Youth Offending Team. We agree with the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that “prevention is a far more cost-effective alternative to spending so much money on reactive and acute responses later on, which cost the taxpayer far more in the long term.”
We believe that Wiltshire Council can do far more on preventative action:
- We’ll establish a Wiltshire Young People’s Foundation to coordinate and grow services for young people. This will work strategically to bring different groups together from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors to develop partnership projects and share resources and good practice, including:
- Facilitating centralised fundraising based on a consortia approach in order to access funding from a variety of sources.
- Provide a ‘Venue Bank’ for groups to share and access available sites to run their projects.
- Distributing seed grant funding to member organisations.
- Organising capacity building within the youth services sector.
- We will increase support for drug and alcohol treatment in Wiltshire. Funding for this has halved over the past six years. At the same time, the number of deaths as a direct result of drug misuse has risen by 109%.