More police officers with higher visibility on the streets is at the heart of the strategy being pursued by Humberside’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to claim back public areas for law-abiding citizens.
Keith Hunter, who is 21 months into his four-year term as PCC, told a business audience in Hull that the process may take time, but he added it was a vital part of the plan to tackle the causes of crime rather than continue treating the symptoms.
Business representatives welcomed the PCC’s comments. Kathryn Shillito, HullBID City Centre Manager, organised the presentation at the Holiday Inn Hull Marina as part of HullBID’s series of networking events.
Crime is always high on the agenda for city centre businesses nationwide, particularly anything to do with anti-social behaviour, and the PCC made it clear that he has a robust and financially-sound policy for dealing with the problems.
Phil Withers, Manager at the Hull office of business consultants RSM UK, said:
There are a lot of synergies between businesses and what the PCC is trying to achieve. Facilitating a higher profile police presence on the streets to reduce anti-social behaviour and aggressive begging is really good to hear, as is the fact that he’s making efficiencies and recruiting more officers with the same budget. That’s a real achievement.
Mr Hunter revealed that the number of police officers within the Humberside force had fallen from 2,200 in the year 2008 to a low of just over 1,400 shortly after he took up his post. But he said that even against a background of continuing government cuts, moves had been made to increase numbers to 1,900 and to refresh the entire senior management team.
Since 2010 the force has had a 22 per cent cash reduction in government grant, a cut of 34 per cent in real terms. The force has not just cut the fat, it’s cutting through the muscle and into the bone. But we are bucking the trend, recruiting at the greatest rate of any force in the country and achieving the highest proportionate increase.
Mr Hunter said the force had £30 million in reserves at a time when people said they were not getting a full service. Even without an increase in funding, his plans were to increase officer numbers by 300, with an increase in Council Tax taking the total up to 1,900 officers.
Over five years we still expect the force to deliver efficiency savings of £10 million, with that money being reinvested in staff. We are using money to best effect and trying to get additional people onto the streets because without that we can’t have the front-end delivery system to work hand-in-hand with other partners.
We need to look at the causes of problems and invest more time in that rather than just deal with the symptoms. It takes a leap of faith because you might not see an immediate return on investment, but I don’t believe in tough or soft solutions. There are those that work and those that don’t work and I am interested in what reduces crime and what reduces the impact on members of the public.
What is needed is a greater police presence. The reality is that uniformed officers and other uniformed representatives of society claim public spaces for law-abiding people. If they don’t do that, there’s always a portion of society who will claim it for their own ends. There needs to be a turnaround in terms of perceptions of that uniformed presence, representing law abiding people, occupying that public space again.