On 4th September I launched my campaign with a proposal for a new type of Special Constable, a Community Special Constable, seeking a 3 fold increase in the number of specials. I asked for feedback and comments on this idea which was part of a broader approach to respond to concerns about visible policing.
So far it’s gone down extremely well. There are clearly many Special Constables who are young and become a Special to contribute to public service, improve their experience and CV; some see it as an entry route into the police. Regardless of how or why they are a Special they do a good and valuable job and need our support. However there is a lot of support for a form of Community Special Constable who may or may not be slightly older, who may well put a good few years in to their community as a new breed of Community Special Constable.
The suggestion of Community Special Constables, linked to their communities, assisting with parish council liaison, crime prevention, local anti-social behaviour, working with Neigbourhood and Farm Watch etc has gone down very well.
Some people have commented that they and their friends had thought about establishing some kind of foot patrol for their area to keep an eye on things and clamp down on antisocial behaviour. Their ideas were not pursued because of concerns about being seen as vigilantes and what they would do if faced with a serious problem, especially given poor mobile phone coverage in parts of the county. They commented that if there was a community-based Special Constable, they would be quite willing to join them on night patrols round their part of their towns or villages. Interesting idea.
Others commented about forming ‘special’ Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) in other words voluntary unpaid PCSO’s. One of the advantages of PCSO is that even though they do not have the power of arrest a Special Constable has, that would be compensated by the fact that they could be recruited more quickly, because of different training requirements, but they would have access to the police communication system and backup. Again another interesting idea and one which if I am elected I will look at very closely.
As part of the approach to responding to visible policing I want to encourage the Neighbourhood Watch movement throughout the county along with Farm Watch and Business Watch. These groups with modest funding and support already achieve significant benefits. As Police Commissioner I would be able to assist them grow and develop by way of grants and other support and that will be an urgent priority.
Any candidate who says that they will solve the problem of visible policing, particularly against a background of cuts, is misleading the public. Will these ideas produce visible policing? No, but it is a first step and what they do is engage with the community more effectively and that is what we need to do. For example what comes through loud and clear is that there are many elderly people in our communities who have a real and genuine fear and concern about crime to a point that it impacts upon their quality of life. Supportive Neighbourhood Watch and Community Special Constables or PCSOs could help give the elderly more confidence and assurance within their local communities.
But of course one of the great issues which comes through is that concerns expressed by the public are not solely about ‘visible policing’ in the literal sense but also about minor and petty crime and the failure to even investigate them. A key reason for this is that police are too tied up in red tape and our courts badly let us and our police down. Serving police officers tell me of wasted time on paperwork and that in dealing with repeat offenders they have lots of carrots but no stick. I applaud the government for making a start on reducing the paperwork but deplore their failure to tackle the issue of repeat offenders. If we can start to tackle both then police time can be freed up for other important activities including deterring crime in the first place.
Please keep giving me feedback. I believe that we can only have a truly effective police force if it works well with, and has the support of, its local communities. Other ideas on how we can build those links would be welcome.
Remember I’m a truly independent candidate; I want to listen to you, I want to hear about your concerns.