I would like to thank everyone who took part in Wednesday evening’s online question and answer session (opens new window). I answered as many questions as I could during the session and have now taken a look at all the unanswered questions. There were some clear themes which I have addressed and answered.
Policing our roads
Several people asked me questions about the policing of our roads such as enforcement of speed limits and using mobile phones whilst driving. Many people asked about their particular local areas, often rural villages, where they said speeding is an issue.
Our Roads Policing Unit is a mobile and proactive team who are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that prevent, detect and bring offenders to justice for traffic crimes. They deliver targeted enforcement focused on the ‘fatal four’ offences of speed, distraction (including mobile phones), seatbelts and drink/drug driving, as this is most likely to reduce those killed or seriously injured on our roads. You can contact your local neighbourhood officer with specific concerns.
I was asked a number of questions about cyber and cyber-enabled crime, our response and how to stay safe online.
Cyber crime is an emerging area of crime, with the number, sophistication and impact of these crimes continuing to grow nationally, with approx a 4% increase nationally. Crime can also be enabled online with 1,909 of these over the past year in the Thames Valley. Meanwhile there has been a drop in crimes such as robbery, vehicle crime and burglary.
Prevention is key, you can take a few simple steps to keep yourself safe online. If you would like advice on how to do this visit the crime prevention page.
Cyber crime is a priority and the Force must continue to ensure that we have the skills and resources to prevent, disrupt and investigate cyber and cyber enabled crimes.
Domestic abuse is a Force priority. In 2015 an HMIC inspection found that we provide a good service to victims of domestic abuse, keeping them safe from harm.
Last year crimes and incidents rose by 19.5%, with the Force receiving a call every 14 minutes. I am pleased to say that more of our investigations are resulting in a charge or caution. Very recently I have agreed to increase the numbers of officers and staff in domestic abuse units.
Hate Crime within our communities
Some of you asked me about hate crime. No one should be subjected to hate or intolerance. It is felt that these crimes and incidents are underreported nationally and I would personally encourage anyone who feels that they have been a victim or has witnessed these crimes and incidents to report it to us so that my officers can robustly investigate it.
A concern was raised from a retailer in relation to shoplifting. Over the past year we have received just over 20,000 reports of bilking and shoplifting. We need to all work together to make our communities safer and I encourage business to play their part in preventing crime. Across the Thames Valley we are working with retailers to problem solve and put in preventative measures such as relocation of high value products and pay at pump technology. We are also looking working together to maximise the efficiency of reporting and investigations by exploring the use of technology to report and transfer evidence such as CCTV.
Police visibility and deployment, cuts to police budgets and impact
Over the last five years despite budget cuts we have protected the numbers of frontline officers.
We are committed to maintaining our presence in our communities and this will be targeted at areas of greatest needs. Earlier this year I increased the numbers of officers and staff in child abuse units and I’ve also agreed to increase the numbers in domestic abuse units.
We don’t know what our budgets will be in future years, however we need to be smart with our finite resources and the Force is continually looking at ways to become more effective and efficient. The most important thing is to maintain our service to the public now and in the future.
I was specifically asked about double crewing in times of austerity. In the main officers patrol alone, however there are circumstances when they are deployed in pairs, this is dependent on a range of factors including time of day/night, operational need, risk posed and of course severity of incident. I also got a question about the number and deployment of our police dogs – for more information click here. I was also asked about the policing of MOD and RAF sites, they have their own police officers; we will of course support each other if required.
Many of you asked questions about authority, respect for the law and our policing style as opposed to other countries. The British model of policing by consent is admired right across the world. How legitimate we are to you is key to this.
In terms of zero tolerance policing this is not an effective style for us to adopt and there are no plans to do so.
Police officer safety, incidents in the USA and London
The safety of my officers and staff is paramount; however the tragic incidents seen in the USA does not reflect the threat in the UK. Where there are incidents at home or abroad, we monitor the situation and I can reassure you we have the resources in place to keep people safe from harm.
During the conversation, a few of you mentioned that you would like to be able to contact police online, report incidents via text and online.
We are working hard to develop a tool that will transform public contact with the police. From a recent survey we know that 86% of people prefer to contact us via phone and 1 in 10 people would like to contact us via social media, both in a non-emergency, which supports your comments. We must however remember this doesn’t suit everyone and as stated in our commitment you will be able to contact us whenever and however is convenient to you, in person, over the phone or online and my officers and staff will have access to more information to provide a more tailored service to you.
I received a question or two about Brexit. The outcome of the negotiations about the UK’s relationship with Europe in the future has the potential to impact on law enforcement and security. We need to continue to work closely and at speed with European countries, maintaining our ability to share intelligence, biometrics and other data to keep people in the UK safe and prevent and disrupt criminals.
In terms of immediate impact, nationally there has been an increase in the reporting of hate crime since the referendum vote. In the Thames Valley reports of incidents directly attributable to the EU debate are low, however across the board we are seeing an increased level of reporting for incidents motivated by other prejudicial factors.
Compliments and complaints
A number of people contacted me with queries about their experiences and the level of service they have received from us. If you would like to discuss your individual experience or you are unhappy with the service you have received from us, please visit this page on our website to find out what you can do next.
Many of you asked questions about parking, cyclists, anti-social behaviour, littering and begging.
Causing a parking obstruction is an offence and you can report this by calling 101 if you witness it. As is cycling on pavements, if cyclists are riding dangerously and officers will pick up on it if they see it. As with everything we do have to prioritise our resources targeting them at areas of greatest need.
I recognise the impact of anti social behaviour. I am pleased to say it has halved over the past five years, however we still receive a call once every 20 minutes.
Begging is not classed as anti-social behaviour, but some people do aggressive begging which can be anti-social.
Our local neighbourhood teams work with the community and our partners to help address local issues such as these. We are also supportive of local authority and partner initiatives such as community wardens and street pastors.
Where compliments and concerns have been raised in relation to specific areas, be reassured that I have passed these on to our Local Police Commanders.
Question about policing in your local area
If you have questions about issues in your local area which were not addressed, please contact your local neighbourhood team. As I said in my open letter, we need to work together to build stronger more resilient communities so please do not hesitate to contact them.
Many of you already actively participate in your communities. We are one community and I encourage residents, business and our partners to play their part in local problem solving and protecting themselves and others from becoming victims of crime.
If you would like to find out more about Thames Valley Police and Our Commitment or would like to read my open letter please visit our website. You can also email me via firstname.lastname@example.org
I received some great feedback from those of you who participated in the online question and answer session and it was really good to hear from residents about the issues that are important to them.
I hope my answers have explained how the Force will continue to deliver an effective and efficient service which meets the needs of you, the public we serve.
Please be reassured that my officers, staff and volunteers will continue to work tirelessly, along with our partners and importantly with you, the public, to make the Thames Valley an even safer place to live and work.
Once again thank you for taking the time to get involved and myself and my colleagues look forward to hosting many more of these online question and answer sessions including more localised events with LPA Commanders and on subjects that matter to you.
Francis Habgood QPM
Chief Constable, Thames Valley Police