Posted: Thursday 28th November 2013
While detecting crime is the responsibility of the police, it is often the public who hold the key to solving the case. Police officers are paid to keep our streets safe and to drive criminals from our county, but our communities could become even safer if everybody realised the value they could bring to crime detection by simply taking a more active interest in their neighbourhood. Those who already donate their free time to a Neighbourhood Watch scheme are well aware of the benefits of localised intelligence in solving crime and I’m delighted that the principles of their work will now be expanded thanks to the amalgamation of the City of Nottingham Neighbourhood Watch Council and NottsWatch.
With the formation of a county-wide Nottinghamshire Neighbourhood Watch organisation, which I announced this month at the joint annual conference of NottsWatch and the City of Nottingham Neighbourhood Watch Council,more local people will be encouraged to keep a watchful eye over their communities and increase feelings of safety and security.
I believe much can be achieved by empowering residents to stand together to fight crime and disorderand have committed £21,000 from my Community Safety Fund to facilitate the merge of these two hardworking organisations. This will help to fund the employment of an operations manager to oversee the work of volunteers across the county and will increase opportunities for delivering timely crime prevention advice to the public.
A month never passes without police budget issues to address and this week has been no exception. When I took on the role of Commissioner, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I understood that the current financial challenges would continue well into my term of office and that difficult and that possibly unpopular decisions might need to be taken to protect vital services. But the way those decisions are made is crucial to maintaining a trusting relationship with the public and it’s my duty to ensure you are always given ample opportunity to contribute to decisions and assess the integrity of them for yourselves. It is in this context I launched a consultation exercise this week on proposals to close Mansfield Woodhouse Police Station.
The future of the station has been uncertain since it was earmarked for possible closure as part of a review of the police estate. A number of cost-saving benefits to closure have been identified including the release of significant capital and savings of about £50,000 per year but nothing is concrete and I’m very keen to reassure residents that we want to hear their views before any decision is finalised.
During my visits around this county I’m often told that our communities need bobbies not buildings and this is a situation where we must weigh up the benefits of releasing vital funds against the advantages of keeping the station open. The Force is spending thousands of pounds annually on empty and underused buildings and this could be spent on recruiting officers and PCSOs to maintain visibility in our neighbourhoods. We have to look at new ways of working which can maximise the time officers spend out on patrol to boost feelings of safety. I’m open to all options in the pursuit of high-quality policing and protecting taxpayers’ money and would urge residents to ensure they have their say on this issue.
On the same theme of using public funds wisely, I’ve made a number of visits to community organisations and charities this week which have benefited from my Community Safety Partnership Fund to see how the money is being spent. One such visit involved the Enthusiasm Trust which is providing diversionary activities to young people on the Clifton estate in Nottingham to help them keep away from crime. This grassroots project has recently received £9,969 from my Community Safety Partnership Fund which will support the provision of a monthly youth club,outreach sessions in partnership with the police in hotspot areas and weekly drop-in workshops covering issues such as knife crime – activities designed to build confidence and self-esteem in young people so they strive higher in life.
Elsewhere this week, I’ve polished up my Russian with an appearance on Russian television! It seems the Force’s recent police dog pension scheme has attracted interest far and wide and now I can add a Russian television appearance to my wider experiences as Commissioner which also include being locked up in jail (for charity!) and electronically tagged.