Decision Maker: Surrey Police and Crime Panel
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Key points raised in the discussion:
1. The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) explained that the annual report was one of his statutory duties and that he had seen steady progress made against his plan but noted that there was always room to do more and the Panel’s comments on the draft plan would be incorporated into the final version.
Members noted that although crime had not increased as much as the national average it had still increased and asked the PCC to expand on this.
2. The PCC suggested amending the report to highlight that while reported crime had increased, actual crime was static according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales. He expressed that an increase in reported crime could be seen as neutral or good news. It could be seen as neutral because the Home Office definition of crime had changed which impacted the statistics. He noted it was positive because people were reporting more and were more ready to discuss crimes such as Domestic Violence, Child Sexual Exploitation and Modern Slavery than they had been previously.
3. The PCC noted that some crimes had seen a real increase in occurrences, such as breaking and entering into vehicles, but that the police had been running public awareness campaigns to make people more aware of their personal belongings.
4. The PCC was confident that the police were on top of crime and would ensure Surrey stayed safe. He noted one exception to this and expressed that he was concerned about cybercrime which needed more attention nationally to reduce rates.
5. It was also noted that rates of clearing up crime were too low nationally and that this was true in Surrey, but that the PCC was holding the Chief Constable to account in this area.
Members highlighted areas of the report that needed editing before the final version was published.
6. Members commented that the report only went into detail of four of the six priorities outlined in the Police and Crime Plan and asked that the final report include all priorities.
7. It was noted that the “Year At A Glance” did not mention the problems identified with disclosure and the fact that the PCC had asked for a review of this. The PCC noted that disclosure needed to be discussed in the final report as the issue was ongoing.
8. It was pointed out that the “Year at a Glance” stated that 75% of tax payers were happy to pay extra for additional officers and police staff, but actually it was 75% of people surveyed, and this should be made clear. The PCC agreed that the report should make it clear that 75% of people surveyed were happy with the rise in the Precept and this change would be incorporated into the report.
9. No mention of collaboration with other forces was given in the part of the report which focused on the “Making Every Pound Count” priority and this should be considered. On collaboration with other forces, the PCC noted that as well as collaboration with Sussex Police, Surrey was joining a four area collaboration with partners in Thames Valley and Hampshire.
10. Members commented that there was no real mention of terrorism and that if the information that came out of the Parsons Green attack was from the last year, this should be discussed. The PCC noted that the although the Parsons Green attack took place a few years prior, reverberations were still having an impact and that these should be commented on.
11. Members queried why there was only one reference to counter-terrorism in the report given the substantial cost that goes into training counter-terror police. It was asked that the PCC detailed plans for the public on how he aims to protect them from the threat of terrorism.The PCC assured the Panel that counter-terrorism policing was taken very seriously and by its nature most work was done away from the public eye. He stated he was happy that there were enough resources in place. He clarified that this report was not his policing plan but that something could be added to the report to put people’s minds at ease.
12. Members commented that the percentage related to confidence in police dealing with these crimes, rather than in the instances of crimes themselves, and this needed to be reported more clearly.
There was a query about whether the report needed to clarify where the 100 extra officer roles would come from.
13. Members noted that the report was not consistent and sometimes implied there were 100 new roles being created while at other times suggested that 25 roles were being saved and 75 new roles were being created. The PCC stood by the statement of 100 extra officers, and felt that the language used was accurate, open, honest and consistent. He further commented that due to extra space in the budget this number was now 104 as 79 new positions could now be added.
14. The PCC explained that this would positively impact neighbourhood policing because the expected loss of 25 positions would have hit neighbourhood policing the hardest as this was one of the few places where substantial cuts could be realised but that fortunately this did not need to happen.
15. The PCC explained that these officers and staff would not be instantly visible to the public because of the time it takes to recruit, train and deploy people into certain roles. He noted that due to funding being done on a yearly basis he could not plan how many officers he would be able to recruit next year. If the Chancellor put forward a 3-year funding plan it could help planning for future recruitment and would allow residents to see visible increases.
Members scrutinised the drop in confidence in police being able to deal with anti-social behaviour from 77.7% to 71.6%.
16. Members highlighted that the report stated ‘local issues’ were responsible for the drop in confidence in police being able to deal with anti-social behaviour but that there was no information about why the public think the police had not responded, and that it was instead focused on the causes of the anti-social behaviour.
17. It was of some concern that close to 30% of people were not confident in the police being able to deal with anti-social behaviour and the Panel wanted more detail on how the PCC and Chief Constable planned to address this.
18. It was noted that despite a drop in the percentage of people who felt confident that the police could deal with anti-social behaviour and crimes in their area, the number remained high. The PCC made clear that it was among his main focuses moving forward but that he understood why people wanted more to be done about anti-social behaviour. He noted that of the 104 new police recruited many would be directed specifically to deal with local issues as feedback from public engagement meetings with the Chief Constable showed that people were concerned by issues such as noisy neighbours, speeding, inconsiderate driving, and tensions caused by unauthorised encampments.
19. The PCC also commented that the Policing in Your Neighbourhood system was now bedded down and that community commanders were dedicated to stop these low level crimes.
20. On the issue of speeding particularly it was noted that speeding enforcement officers were in place but there was limited funding to do this. The PCC suggested that it was important to press the County Council to revitalise the Drive Smart partnership which he was frustrated at the progress of. It was also noted that Community Speedwatch was increasing in coverage and was doing positive work. The PCC praised the work of the volunteers and groups who provided the service.
21. Members noted concern for the safety of Community Speedwatch Volunteers who had reported having things thrown out of windows at them. The PCC agreed to raise this at a course he was due to go on.
22. The Panel requested more information and timescales on the PCC providing transit sites to ease tensions from unauthorised encampments. The PCC expressed that the transit sites were not police responsibilities, and that this lay with the borough, district and county councils as they were the biggest land owners and had planning responsibilities. It was noted that the PCC had met with local and county leaders but that there was not yet a publically identified transit site in the county.
23. The PCC payed tribute to the County Council for making three sites available as negotiated stopping places, but that under the law they had not been designated as transit sites and lacked the facilities needed meaning police could not move people from unauthorised encampments to these sites. The PCC suggested Panel Members encouraged their districts and boroughs to move this process forward.
Members asked the PCC to give more detail about the in-house Victim Support and Witness Care Unit, particularly about how it is staffed.
24. The PCC explained that the unit was set up on 1 April 2019 and that after a few teething problems it was now fully staffed with no backlog and was fully operational.
25. He noted that there was no more money available so numbers of users would remain stable.
26. The PCC noted that the staffing contract had previously been with Victim Support which was largely a voluntary based organisation. He paid tribute to the dedicated volunteers, many of whom had been brought on as staff. He further noted that recruitment was ongoing for additional staff.
27. It was explained that bringing the service in-house not only fulfilled the County and the PCC’s statutory responsibilities, but provided victims with a single point of contact and a more seamless service than previous methods of helping victims.
The Panel raised the issue of rural crime which they thought was not covered enough in the report.
28. The PCC acknowledged that under the previous PCC many rural residents felt their needs were not being addressed but that they had not been forgotten.
29. He explained that the NICHE system of recording crime had a specific flag to categorise rural crimes so that statistics could be gathered to help inform police work.
30. The Commissioner detailed how Surrey Police had gone from one to two pan-county rural liaison officers with the specific remit of making sure that colleagues across the force take rural crimes seriously.
31. Members appreciated the increase in rural liaison officers but commented that given the size of the rural area this was concerning.
32. The PCC agreed that there were too few officers but that the 100 extra officers and staff would go some way to give necessary resources in this area. He also noted that there was also push-back from urban areas that they do not have enough police presence because rural areas are too heavily focused on and that there was a fine balance to be struck.
33. Members wanted to know if any of the 104 new officers who are yet to be assigned a remit could be directed to rural crimes. The PCP agreed and noted that some of these new recruits would be directed to rural crimes but they were largely to help in local policing. He pointed out that local policing included the policing of rural communities.
Members expressed concerns about cybercrimes and asked that the PCC addressed this in more detail in the report, and provided information to residents on how to protect themselves.
34. Members were concerned that no information had been given to residents about how to protect their interests, nor about where to go for help if they had been targeted.
35. The PCC said that he felt pessimistic about cybercrime and commented that more needed to be done on a national and international level. It was expressed that this was an issue he had repeatedly asked for more action on and hoped that Central Government would think more seriously about.
36. Despite this, he noted that Surrey Police do a lot to address cybercrime and the message to residents was to take precautions to protect themselves.
Members asked that the PCC provided more details on Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs).
37. Members requested that the PCC provided a more detailed explanation of ICVs including their role and the impact that their actions had so that the public could see the importance of the work that they do.
38. The PCC praised the work of the people who volunteer as ICVs and explained that the scheme was run from his own office. He commented that he was aware that the report could contain too much technical language and that he would take a look at the report to highlight the work done by the volunteers.
39. Members wanted to feedback some positive points to the PCC. They noted that close partnership working with police within Elmbridge to tackle tensions around unauthorised encampments had been particularly good, and that Community Speedwatch volunteers would like to pass on praise to Surrey Police for the training they had received.
40. It was noted by the Panel that more central locations should be used for community events to encourage better attendance from the public to which the PCC responded that areas where reports of particular concern had come from were largely selected but that new locations would be used for engagement meetings in the autumn.
Members of the Police and Crime Panel commented on and noted the annual report prior to its formal publication.
Actions/ Further information to be provided:
That the Panel formally writes to the PCC with the comments and feedback raised in the discussion.
Publication date: 08/07/2019
Date of decision: 27/06/2019
Decided at meeting: 27/06/2019 - Surrey Police and Crime Panel