The Challenges for Essex
I’ve had a challenging but exhilarating time since being elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for our county.
On taking office, I immediately set about the task of exploring the detail of how Essex Police and partner agencies work to keep us safe. I also held meetings with groups of people with specific expertise and often first hand knowledge to learn their views on what is working well and what could work better.
It is imperative that crime continues to fall in Essex– that we have fewer victims of crime and fewer people living in fear of crime. This is something I promised in my manifesto, and that I intend to deliver on. I’m also clear that there are areas on which we should focus, to ensure that we are addressing both the underlying issues and the crimes themselves as effectively as possible.
In December, I convened four forums. The first was on rural crime where concerns ranged from serial and organised crime such as metal theft or fly tipping, through to ensuring that officers had detailed local knowledge of the area they were policing. There is already much good work going on, such as close cross border working with neighbouring police forces to share intelligence. Some parts of Essexhave highly effective Farmers’ NAP and Farm Watch groups, and we’ll be looking to facilitate these countywide. Essex Police is continuing to develop its policing plans to ensure that all available resources are deployed as efficiently and effectively as possible in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on this. There’s good work, but there’s much more that can be done.
The second forum was on business crime where concerns included the fact that businesses that fall victim to crime sometimes end up closing or moving away to a different area. This should not be happening. It also causes a wider social impact as an area may lose access to a key service. It’s clear that rural businesses are particularly affected by acquisitive crime, some of which will be opportunistic, whilst businesses in urban areas tend to suffer fraud or violent crime. These are big challenges and I intend to ensure that the voice of business is heard, and that all businesses are a focus of action for neighbourhood policing teams and Community Safety Partnerships.
The most recent figures show that the number of people killed on the roads of Essexincreased for the first time in two years, so this must also be an area of focus. Essex has a Casualty Reduction Board, where Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Thurrock Council, the Highways Agency and the blue light agencies work together to police our roads and influence driver behaviour. Many serious accidents are caused by reckless or negligent driving, and it’s essential that we do everything possible to encourage good driving. The Casualty Reduction Board possesses a lot of expertise, a joined-up partnership approach and many good initiatives already in place. I intend to work closely with its members to improve the safety of our roads.
The final meeting was with victims of crime. This was the forum where I perhaps learnt the most, engaging with people with expert knowledge, be it about domestic or child abuse, repeat crime, or the difficulties victims often experience in reporting crime. We need to ensure that victims of crime have the confidence to seek help and protection, and know where to find it. This is a challenge for all our agencies: the NHS, social services, Essex Police and charities. The numbers of domestic abuse incidents being reported to police is rising in our county. This increased reporting is actually a good thing because it suggests that victims have more confidence in reporting such crimes. The job of our agencies is to ensure that this confidence is justified, that victims are protected, and that perpetrators are brought to justice. Domestic abuse and child abuse are stains on our society, and every single one of us must work together to prevent such evils.
I’ve also met with representatives of the Community Safety Partnerships, as they have an important role to play in tackling crime in our county. Their presence in each of our districts brings an essential local focus. If we are to make our county safer we need to deliver local solutions for local problems, and then ensure that approaches that demonstrably work are known and shared across Essex.
During the next few weeks, this work will result in a Police and Crime Plan for Essex which is designed to provide meaningful focus on tackling and preventing crime, and protecting vulnerable people. We face many challenges, in difficult financial circumstances, but I have been delighted to meet highly dedicated professionals in Essex Police and all of our agencies who are passionate about keeping our communities safe.
I am convinced that together we can rise to the challenge and continue to be proud of our county.