It’s been a year of great change in many respects for both Essex Police and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS). We have seen a change in the leadership of both services, with the appointment of Ben-Julian Harrington as Chief Constable and Jo Turton as Chief Fire Officer. Ben-Julian succeeded former Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh who led Essex Police successfully for five years. Jo took over from Adam Eckley who managed the Service through a difficult period and supported it to become the first service in the country governed by a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. On October 1st this year, we marked the first anniversary of joint governance of the two services as they move towards ever closer collaboration in order to deliver a more effective service for the public. We are currently delivering on a number of initiatives including shared use of the estate, joint procurement initiatives and a collaborative approach to repeat callers.
Just as we produced our vision for policing in the Police and Crime Plan in 2016, work has now begun in earnest on developing the strategy for the Fire and Rescue Service over the next five years. We have consulted with our partners and with ECFRS employees to come up with a list of priorities which are now out for public comment in a survey which runs until 15 January 2019. We will analyse the results and use them to shape the strategy taking the service forward. You can give your views by filling in a survey online via this link www.essex.pfcc.police.uk/FireRescuePlan Hard copies are also available from local libraries or on request from the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner on 01245 291600.
We have just published the Annual Report for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service which you can read in more detail here: http://www.essex.pfcc.police.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Fire-and-Rescue-Annual-Report-2017-2018-FINAL.pdf
One of the key findings from the Police and Crime Plan was that the people of Essex wanted more local, visible and accessible policing. Following months of rigorous training throughout this year, 150 new officers are now either beginning or about to begin their duties, having been assigned roles across the county. I wish them every success in their careers and thank them enormously for the contribution they will make to help keep the people of Essex safe and increase public confidence. The number of Specials working in Essex Police has risen sharply over the last year after a successful recruitment campaign resulted in a further 122 joining the ranks. There are now 475 Specials in post and Essex has the second largest and fastest growing Special Constabulary in England and Wales. There is still work to do to reduce crime and the fear of crime and this is always ongoing with hopes to increase the number of police officers further in 2019.
We have just published our Annual Report on the Essex Police and Crime Plan, setting out the progress that has been made over the last financial year in meeting its priorities and the work still left to do. You can view the report here: http://www.essex.pfcc.police.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/PFCC-Accounts-2018.pdf
In 2017-18, overall crime in Essex increased by 11.2%, against a national rise of 15.3%. The demands on policing and the nature of crime is ever changing. Increasing levels of online crime, a rise in reporting of crimes such as domestic abuse and non-recent sexual abuse and the need to support other forces dealing with recent terrorist incidents and indeed mount extra activities locally due to the changing national threat level, are some of the additional pressures that have had a very real impact on policing in this county. While pressures have grown, funding in real terms has remained restrained and Essex Police remains one of the tightest funded police forces in the country.
In addition to recruiting extra officers, Essex Police have looked at other ways to reduce the pressures and have made major progress in delivering our Mobile First programme which allows officers to record incidents on their phones rather than having to go to a desktop in a police station. We should see the benefit of this next year as more officers are freed up to allow them to be even more visible within your communities. We have also increased our partnership working with other accredited organisations who assist with intelligence gathering and can deal with certain low-level crimes without involving the police. This strengthening of community policing has been hailed as an example of best practice by the Home Office.
Our newly established Violence and Vulnerability Framework also sets out how we can work best with our partners to beat violent crime in the county. The framework brings together the work across Essex to stop our young people getting involved in crime and reduce violence in our communities. I strongly believe that partnership working is the way to deliver better and more efficient community safety to everyone and this is where the benefits of joint governance of our police and fire and rescue services together with more integrated working practices cannot be overstated.
The long hot summer put extra pressure on our firefighters as they dealt with an increase in incidents caused by the dry conditions.
In September we welcomed twelve new wholetime firefighters after they had successfully completed 14 weeks of intensive training. They are based at stations across Essex and will be followed by further wholetime squads who will be trained and deployed across the county in the coming months. We have had 68 on-call firefighters join the Service, bringing the total number to 499. I would like to wish all of them the very best in their careers and thank them for their contribution to improving the safety of the public. The fire service has done a great job over the past year working on fire prevention with the community and in schools and our joint safety messages can gain a much wider reach working in partnership with the police. Jointly badged police and fire education teams have already reached more than 300,000 children since their introduction in September 2016.
So as we start 2019, we will be looking to build on the progress already made in tackling the priorities identified in the Police and Crime Plan, and we will finalise the Fire and Rescue Plan in the light of the results of our public survey to create the right priorities for the Fire and Rescue Service and drive those forward. We will continue to seek out more innovative ways to maximise the impact of the talented and dedicated people who work in both services so we have even safer communities in which we can all thrive.
With best wishes for a very happy, and above all, safe New Year
Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex
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