Poll: Just how well is Norfolk police performing?

Simon Bailey, Norfolk's chief constable and Stephen Bett, Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk. Pic: Denise Bradley Simon Bailey, Norfolk's chief constable and Stephen Bett, Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk. Pic: Denise Bradley

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
6:40 AM

It has been another challenging year for Norfolk police with dwindling resources and a significant financial deficit which means about £21m will have to be found in savings over the next three years.

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Recent crime figures show that Norfolk is still among the best performing in the country, but beyond that snapshot just how well has the force been performing and is their priority you as the motto suggests. Crime Correspondent PETER WALSH takes a look in his end of year report.

Hundreds of officers from Norfolk were rightly hailed for their “fantastic” response to the recent tidal surge - the worst to have hit the region in 60 years - but there have also been times in the past year when the efforts of constabulary staff have fallen below what we in this great county should expect.

1) Priority Crime

Priority crime is offences like burglary, criminal damage, violence, robbery, theft from motor vehicle and theft of motor vehicle, often referred to as the crimes which cause most harm to the public.

Recent figures, from April to September 2013, show the force was 3.7pc or 168 crimes better than its target but in South Norfolk there was an increase in that type of crime over the period (113 or +23%) with the most significant relating to burglary other than dwelling.

Norfolk police is focused on tackling those crimes that matter most to people and this is reflected in the figures.

Verdict: Excellent

2) Killed and Seriously Injured

Norfolk’s continued collaboration with Suffolk has seen the forces merge their roads policing unit which looks to try and reduce the number of crashes on our roads where people are killed or seriously injured (KSI).

And while the figures up to last month might state the force is on target - YTD there were 158 collisions in which people were killed or seriously injured against a target of 172 - the fact is that any crash on our roads where injury or death occurs is one too many.

Officers using the Lotus Evora to highlight the dangers associated with driving is a good way to raise awareness among other road users but the best way to enforce road safety is for officers to be out upholding the laws on our roads. No-one drives dangerously when they see a police car.

verdict: Good

3) Domestic Crime Detection Rates

Recent figures shows that the force’s detection rate for domestic abuse is just about 51pc against a target of 52pc. Domestic abuse, as highlighted by the recent Norfolk Says No week, backed by Norfolk police, is a priority for the whole of the county, not just police.

And while there might well be difficulties around domestic abuse, including whether or not the victim ultimately wants to pursue the case, it is vital that every possible effort can be made to improve that detection figure to help give other victims the confidence to come forward and not suffer in silence.

Verdict: Could do better

4) Serious Sexual Offence Detections

Figures presented at a bi-lateral meeting of the police and crime commissioner and chief constable at the beginning of November show the detection rate achieved was 28.7pc (103 detections and 359 crimes) which is 3.3pc points below the target of 32pc.

Norfolk police, like others across the country, is seeing an increase - both historic and current -in reports of serious sexual offences, rape, child abuse, child sexual exploitation and adult abuse following the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal.

Initiatives like the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) where victims of serious sexual assault can receive expert help, treatment and advice without the police necessarily having to become involved are undoubtedly helping give people the sense that they can come forward.

And while police chiefs will welcome increased reporting of this type of offence - and say it is testament to the confidence and trust that victims now have in the police - the fact is once reported they have to get results and justice for victims. Detections of this type of offence therefore need to increase too in a bid to further increase that public and victim confidence.

Verdict: Could do better.

5) Anti-social behaviour

Anti-Social Behaviour might mostly be low-level crime but it causes high anxiety among lots of people, particularly some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Norfolk police has been looking for a 2.5pc reduction in the number of ASB incidents reported in the performance year and as of October was 8.4pc or 1507 incidents better than target which equates to an average of 8.2 fewer ASB incidents than the target of 99 incidents per day across the county.

Verdict: Excellent

6) Violent and Sexual Crime within the night time economy

Over the past few years an enormous amount of time, effort and resources has gone into trying to reduce and prevent violent and sexual crime linked to alcohol and the night-time economy in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn between 9pm and 6am.

The target for the year was for there to be no more than 500 offences (with 240 the target for the first half of the year).

The force is currently meeting the target with 237 offences in the first half of the year.

Initiatives like Impact nights, where an army of police take to the streets to provide a blanket of safety, have proved successful in sending out a message that violence and disorder will not be tolerated.

Police are also looking for legislation to help them tackle the disproportionate amount of crime that happens in the early hours of the morning in places like Prince of Wales Road by supporting Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMROS) which would see the sale of alcohol banned from 3am and 6am during the week and between 3.45am and 6am at weekends in the city centre.

Until that happens the fear remains that incidents like the “riot” which occurred in Norwich’s Prince of Wales Road in August will continue to cause problems for both police and public alike.

Verdict: Good

7) Satisfaction

Norfolk police say their priority is “you” and recent statistics show that the force’s rolling 12 month satisfaction rate, among victims of crime, is currently 77.9pc while the year to date figure up to the beginning of November showed the force had a satisfaction rate of 79.1pc.

However, a report showing figures on complaints related to Norfolk Constabulary recorded between April 1 2013 and September 30 this year have shown a 37 pc increase in comparison with the same period 12 months ago.

The complaints, made by members of the public, are in relation to the conduct of those serving with the Police and are dealt with under the Police Reform Act 2002 which has introduced a number of changes aimed at improving the way complaints are handled.

While it is thought the changes have made the process of making the complaint more straight forward any increase must be looked at closely to see if lessons can be learned in order to ensure the public are receiving the best possible service.

Verdict: Good

Other areas:

Public engagement:

There has been a massive shift towards making police more accessible which has been partly necessitated by the closure of a number of police stations or public inquiry offices across the county over the years.

Norfolk police has used social media to its advantage with areas like Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn all having their own Twitter accounts in addition to the main Norfolk account to interact and relay crime messages to people in these areas.

A number of senior officers have held web chats to try and increase their contact with the public all of which has been good while PCSOs remain the main port of call for members of the public on the street.

However incidents like the night earlier this year when a boat was stolen from the river at Thorpe highlight, when the police were told about the theft as it was happening but failed to react until at least 40 minutes later, highlight the fact there is still work to do.

Verdict: Could do better

Communication:

Norfolk police has its own press department which handles inquiries from the media during normal office hours however out of hours and at weekends the force control room is the way in which the press contact police to get updates on crimes. It really does depend on who you speak to in the control room as to how much information is released during these times but unfortunately all too often if news breaks ‘out of hours’ the service provided to the media leaves a lot to be desired.

The theft of a 33ft cruiser from moorings at Bungalow Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, in November last year is just one example. The police were initially called to the theft shortly after 6pm but it was not until 6.48pm when officers were dispatched while the force refused to give out any information until a statement was issued after midnight – six hours after the first 999 call came in – which also included an appeal for information. Not a great service to either the public or the media.

Verdict: Could do better

Relationship with Police and Crime Commissioner:

Stephen Bett, the former chairman of the Norfolk Police Authority, has just completed his first year in office as the man responsible for holding Norfolk’s chief constable to account.

But as Norfolk’s new chief constable has only just been installed at the end of October, albeit after having held it on an interim basis since the summer, it is too early to tell how it is working.

Certainly Mr Bett was the obvious choice and the crime figures are positive however only time will tell if the familiarity Mr Bett has with Norfolk police’s hierarchy will be a positive or not. Perhaps the first real test will be when Simon Bailey asks Mr Bett for an increase in the police precept as he has vowed to do.

Verdict: Too early to say

Budget cuts and collaboration:

With the constabulary having to find between £20 and £21m in savings over the next three years it is the financial figures as well as the crime figures which are proving a real issue for the chief constable.

Norfolk has for many years now looked to save money where it can by strengthening links with colleagues in Suffolk and the force has done this - and continues to do this - very successfully.

But with millions still to be saved the force is going to have to find further ways still to increase that relationship in order to protect the front line and keep bobbies on the beat in this county in the face of huge cuts.

Verdict: Good, but still more to do

Star performers:

PCs Forbes Scott and Matt Gouldsmith who won the EDP Star of Norfolk award in the police person of the year category after helping to save the life of a 51-year-old man who was slashed in the face and neck in Norwich, on New Year’s Eve 2012.

As well as helping the victim the officers also looked after the partner of the man who was in distress. The officers helped stop the flow of blood from the victim before paramedics arrived.

Without the quick actions of PC Scott and Gouldsmith the man would have died after the attack.

Overall Performance: Good, but needs to improve in certain areas, including increasing detection rates for serious sexual offence detections.

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