This week I went along to the Crime Panel meeting for Dunstall and Victoria Wards and heard the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner speak about crime and policing in the County.
Katy Bourne, a former MSDC Tory Councillor, was elected to this role in 2012 and she seems to work very hard in her top post. She told us of her close liaison with the Sussex Police Chief Constable – she has a two hour meeiting with him every Friday – and the progress they have made in making the policing more effective. Although the recent threat of a 40% reduction in funding was shelved, they will still face cuts of £7m or £8 in the near future as part of austerity measures. Included in these changes will be a reduction in the number of PCSOs, who will also have to take on more demanding work.
She is trying to reduce the amount of police time spent responding to non-emergency calls, encouraging officers to sort them out by officers making decisions instead of logging them and passing them on up the line. All police now have mobile phones, which was not the case ubtil recently, and this should save them time in recording crimes.
The police have to take account of the changing nature of criminal behaviour – much of it is computer based now. Child sexual exploitation is one of the key priorities now, with so many historic cases coming through that it will cost £1bn annually in Britain! She told us that at any one time there may be 750,000 paedophiles online!
Katy believes that although the police may be less visible these days, they are very impressive, “a huge, sophisticated machine” working behind the scenes. For example, there are still 27 officers working with the victims of the Shoreham air crash. Katy is also responsible for the budget for victims of crime and restorative justice, which she feels can be very effective. She makes decisions about where the money is spent, but not about police deployments and tactics.
When I asked her about travellers, she told me exactly how and why things had changed. Section 61 allows the police to move on travellers if there are more than four vehicles involved. Section 62 allows the police to move them to a transit park if there is one in the area. If they refuse to move, they can be banned from entering the county area for 3 months apparently. The key to this is the availability of transit areas for them to move to. More have been developed recently, and so the problem for the business parks has eased.
Sussex is 14th of 41 counties in terms of size and has 5000 officers. We should be glad to know that The Chief Constable has ‘catching the criminals’ as one of his main tenets. It was interesting to hear from Katy, who seems to be enjoying her role and bringing some common sense to policing in Sussex.