How is Essex Police performing?
In these times of reducing budgets, with police officers and police staff continuing to work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, it is essential that we have accurate and meaningful information about the performance of our police force. This makes it possible to identify areas where policing is effective and, just as crucially, areas where things are going less well.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, elected to serve the people of Essex, I use this information to hold the Chief Constable to account. I believe for reasons of openness and transparency, this information should be in the public domain, and I will continue to publish it on my website. I also ensure that I am open and accessible with media organisations, willing to be interviewed on matters of public interest and concern.
I’m committed to ensuring members of the public have the opportunity to speak with senior police officers directly about the issues that matter to them. So, I’ve created the Essex Police Challenge event where residents can ask questions directly of their Chief Constable, with the next event taking place on March 12. So if you’ve got a question you’re burning to ask, this is your opportunity – with full details of how to submit questions on my website.
To complement the Essex Police Challenge, I will continue to hold regular public meetings, with force District Commanders, in every district of our county, and sharing up to date information about crime and community safety with local people. Please come along and get involved in these meetings too.
Detailed monthly performance reports can be found on my website. In the past, some police performance measures have been poorly designed and crudely interpreted. Therefore, when we publish the performance information on our website, we provide important context in the accompanying reports.
Some of the headlines from those reports are as follows.
Comparing calendar year 2014 with 2013, there has been a small increase in the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to Essex Police, from 27,696 incidents to 28,095. However, the number of domestic abuse offences recorded by police, has increased significantly from 9,222 offences to 10,825, an increase of 17.4 per cent. This increase demonstrates that Essex Police, together with the Crown Prosecution Service, is successfully charging a higher proportion of perpetrators of domestic abuse. However, let me be clear, domestic abuse is always unacceptable, and the ultimate goal must be to greatly reduce the amount of harm it causes.
I am pleased that we are now seeing successful prosecutions for domestic abuse in cases where the victim did not feel able to cooperate. This is key to ensuring that the perpetrators of some of the worst incidents of domestic abuse are now brought before our courts.
Victim satisfaction and response target times
With our increasing focus on some of the crimes that cause the most serious harm, such as domestic abuse, child abuse and child sexual exploitation, with the reduction in the number of police officers as a result of budget cuts, and in a county as large as Essex, it is inevitable and regrettable that officers will be stretched and response time targets may not always be met. I know that officers are working relentlessly and professionally to respond to 999 calls.
Often, particularly in urban areas, calls will be responded to well within response time targets. The Chief Constable has led significant work to understand the demand on force resources, and ensure officers are available where and when needed.
However, I am concerned that in around one in six emergency incidents, Essex Police is failing to meet the standard response target time of 15 minutes for an urban emergency and 20 minutes for a rural emergency. I have raised this with the Chief Constable, and will continue to do so.
The number of people killed on the roads of Essex is at its lowest since 1926 but, sadly, 38 people have still been killed in the past year. I believe the amount of serious harm which occurs on our roads is still too high, with 750 people killed or seriously injured in 2014. I will continue to work with Essex Police, the Highways Agency and our councils to find ways of reducing the amount of harm caused.
I am a member of the Essex-wide Casualty Reduction Board, and detailed analysis presented to us shows that young drivers comprise 7.9 per cent of licence holders but are primarily at fault for 17.5 per cent of injuries. During 2014, the proportion of young drivers at fault in collisions where a person was killed or seriously injured increased from 18.6 per cent between January to September, to 26.3 per cent during October and November. I believe it is crucial that we continue to seek to raise the driving standards of young motorists, perhaps through the introduction of a provisional driving licence as recommended by some of the motoring organisations, and to continue to encourage and educate young drivers to behave responsibly on our roads.
It is also important that we continue to monitor the competence of some of our older drivers, whose eyesight may sadly start to deteriorate rapidly. With increasing numbers of older people in our county, this is an issue we can’t ignore.
I am particularly concerned about the increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured on motorcycles and bicycles. This information has been discussed at length at the Casualty Reduction Board, and we have agreed that awareness-raising campaigns around motorcycle and cyclist road safety will be run in the coming months.
In Essex, the number of crimes occurring in 2014 was almost the same as the year before, with an increase of 0.2 per cent in all crime offences showing at the end of December 2014. In many other counties, recorded crime is now rising more steeply, and I believe this apparent difference with Essex is in large part due to the high ethical standards of crime recording of our force over the past three to four years. The accuracy of Essex Police’s crime recording has been independently acknowledged by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Innovative, intelligence-led, policing has been responsible for 894 fewer house burglaries taking place across our county, a reduction of 11.6 per cent, comparing calendar year 2014 with 2013. There have also been significant decreases in vehicle crime, robbery and all types of theft.
I am also pleased that our busy urban night time entertainment areas are becoming safer, with a reduction in the number of ‘night time economy’ crimes of 9.6 per cent, or 550 offences, in 2014 compared with 2013. Further good news is that the number of Class A drug suppliers prosecuted increased by 35.9 per cent from 142 to 193 in 2014.
There has been a small decrease in the overall solved crime rate, from 29.1 per cent to 27.6 per cent, which I know the force is working hard to address. There has also been an increase in violent crime, which mirrors a national increase. It is important that we understand why this is happening, and that Essex Police continues to bring violent offenders to justice. I expect the Chief Constable to do all he can to lead improvement in this regard but, with less resources available to the police, of course I recognise the challenge.
In December 2014, following a successful funding bid, a street triage pilot was launched throughout Essex. The aim of this pilot is to reduce the number of individuals detained under the Mental Health Act where the root cause of the behaviour is drugs, alcohol or criminality, and ensure that only those in real need of support are formally detained. This pilot involves mental health professionals attending the scene of a potential mental health incident with police officers to support both the individual in crisis and the police officers in making the most appropriate decision for the welfare of the individual. This process is also supported by an additional helpline which allows officers to obtain specialist mental health advice and support at the scene of incidents.
I am delighted that agencies across Essex have now signed the mental health crisis care concordat. My team are now leading work across the county to identify current service provision and identify new services which require commissioning to best support the most vulnerable and reduce the impact that mental health, drugs and alcohol have on their behaviour.
This is a snapshot of some of the important work that is taking place in Essex. Since 2010, Essex Police has delivered over £50 million of savings, with another £40 million predicted for the next few years. This will be tough. Especially since Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has found that Essex is already one of the leanest and most efficient forces in the county.
Our police officers, PCSOs and police staff are stretched, but are working tirelessly to keep our communities safe. I will continue to support the excellent work of Essex Police and to challenge the Chief Constable in areas where performance is not as strong as it could be. I will also do all I can to make the case for the resources Essex Police needs to serve our communities.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex