In profile: Green police and crime commissioner candidate Martin Schmierer
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
Police and crime commissioner elections will be held on May 5. Norfolk contenders, Green Party candidate Martin Schmierer sets out his vision for the role.
QWith cuts to the central government policing grant, should Norfolk taxpayers see further increases to their council tax bill in the years ahead beyond those already planned?
A Services have been stretched and if they are stretched too thin, then the public's safety and wellbeing may be jeopardised. Whilst not ideal, I would advocate increases in council tax to ensure that this vital service is maintained. I would initiate a much more visible consultation process to ensure that residents understand what improvements they can expect from any rises in taxes.
QThe home secretary has indicated she would like to see more powers handed to police and crime commissioners, such as control of fire services. Would you like to see the PCC given more powers? If so, which ones.
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AThe establishment of PCCs has already meant that a considerable amount of power now rests with one person. Increasing their remit is unlikely to benefit the community, especially as the fire and police services are very different organisations. Furthermore, PCCs are elected individuals, not (necessarily) experts, and it would be irresponsible to give them too much control over services on which people's lives depend.
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QWhat will you do in the job day to day? Where will you be based?
A I will be based in Wymondham as this will ensure that I can contact the chief constable easily. I also anticipate that I will be regularly contacting stakeholders, social services, local councils and other relevant bodies to make sure that their views are heard.
Q You will have significant other
resources to be used to fund
initiatives and services designed to prevent crime and improve
community safety. How will you decide how to cut that cake?
A The primary focus will be on early prevention work. There also needs to be a greater emphasis on community safety and a commitment to retaining Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who act as the vital link between the constabulary and the communities. It would allow us to ensure that we have more visible policing, in particular in rural areas, where some villagers have told me that they haven't seen a police officer in years.
Q What do you plan to be your main contribution to improving the performance of the services that you will lead, fund or influence?
AEmphasis on multi-agency work, ensuring that partners, for example victim charities, are sufficiently funded, that intelligence is well managed and shared, and that high levels of communication and cohesion are maintained. This is particularly relevant in preventing domestic violence and sex crimes against children and adults.
I would work on getting multiple constabularies to adopt the same ICT system and intelligence management systems to ensure uniformity, and that intelligence can be shared better.
Q What do you see as the biggest crime issues facing the region?
AOne of the biggest causes of crime is the decline in social cohesion and the growing disparity in wealth in Britain.
I would like to do more to tackle include 're-victimisation' – where people who have been victims of crime are more likely to be victims again; human trafficking and exploitation; under- or unreported crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual crimes; alcohol-related crime in the region's late-night economy areas; mental health-related crimes.
QGiven the closer co-operation between Norfolk and Suffolk, is there a case for a single PCC for both counties? And if the three county devolution package unfolds ,will the PCC's role need to be altered?
A Norfolk is already too large an area to be controlled by one politician. The government clearly favours this kind of system, as shown by their insistence on elected mayors as part of a devolution deal. Far from giving more power to local people, having one person in charge makes it easier for central government to control local politics.
QWith scarce resources, are there any current services the police provide which you believe they could, or should, stop doing?
A I would like to reduce the emphasis on prosecuting low-level drug takers and to see the decriminalisation of at least Class C drugs. I would like to target the organised drug suppliers. I would also like to introduce clearer guidance on expenses in the commissioner's office. I would look to use public transport where possible and ensure that I claimed the bare minimum in order to fulfil the demands of my job. I would ensure that PCSOs are not being used as 'cheaper alternatives' to constables, and instead are used as intended – to foster good relations with local communities and act as a source of local crime/policing knowledge.
Q How important do you think it is to the public that there is a visible police presence on the streets and do you believe, under your watch, you can maintain that?
A A visible police presence is important to the public. It not only shows them that their taxes are going to good use, but it also makes people feel safer. If police are responding to incidents, if PCSOs are interacting with the local communities, and if senior officials (e.g. PCCs) are attending events, then there will be a visible police presence. We do not need to promise a 'bobby on every corner' just for the sake of visibility.