Summer is here, the schools have broken up and, so far, we’ve had some promising weather.
I like to use this natural break in the year as a time to take stock, reflect and consider the big issues for policing in the years ahead.
On this note I was heartened by a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies last week which said that Hertfordshire Police has made good progress in meeting the difficult financial challenge facing every police force in the country.
I believe that being on a sound financial footing is a key priority because, as any self-respecting Police and Crime Commissioner knows, the one group that would have to bail out a force that doesn’t balance its books is the taxpayer.
I am also pleased that in Hertfordshire we have managed to reach this position but without compromising on the policing effort in the county.
To this aim, safe-guarding front line policing is a key priority of mine. And in order to protect the front line in the future, including the neighbourhood teams that I know so many residents value, it is necessary for savings to be made.
This is where our agreement, which the Chief Constable Andy Bliss and I signed, to collaborate with two other police forces – Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire – is vital.
By collaborating back office functions of the three forces, we can both ensure that Hertfordshire Constabulary is efficient as well as effective.
However, this is not the only area where we can join forces with other organisations for the benefit of the public. We need to be looking to join together with other local services in Hertfordshire.
As regular Speaker’s Corner readers will know, my motto is that crime and policing is, and should be, everybody’s business.
For me, that includes other public services as well. They should be doing their bit to protect the local community from crime – in tandem with the police of course. Some people will have heard that I am leading national work on how we bring together public services.
By working together we can make sure we have a public service where the right person is doing the right job at the right time.
In the final analysis of how well the police service is being run, I know that many people will look at the crime figures and make their judgement from there.
As is often the case though, the stats do not tell the whole story.
I’ve been quoted already this year as saying that we may see recorded crime go up by as much as 10% in Hertfordshire.
There are numerous reasons for this, the biggest of which is that Forces up and down the country are reviewing how they record crime.
The likely effect of this is an upsurge in crime figures following a long decline in the numbers of crimes over many years.
A good example of this is new rules about how fly-tipping crimes are recorded.
Police work with local authorities such as Dacorum Borough Council to tackle this issue, which is anti-social and a blight on communities.
However the changes mean that the incidents that were once dealt with by the council, often with assistance from the police, are now to be recorded as crimes.
On first inspection, this would look like a spike in the number of offences being reported when in actual fact it is an accounting change, more of interest to statisticians than to victims.
I welcome these changes in recording methods, because accurate figures are key to developing a strategic response to the issues affecting the county. Ultimately, this will lead to an improvement to the service that the police provide the public.
This is a re-calibration year for the crime figures, and I say to those who do not want to look past them, to look instead at the Crime Survey for England and Wales. This is totally independent of the police and yet has generally shown the numbers of crimes dropping in the UK for many years.