- Meeting of Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel, Friday, 7th September, 2018 11.00 am (Item 18.)
To note and ask questions on the topical issues report.
The Panel was provided with a report prepared by the Scrutiny Officer which presented details of topical policing issues since the last meeting of the Panel.
The PCC reported that although funding for Thames Valley Police was inadequate, for the past 12 months finance had stabilised. A major issue for Thames Valley Police was retention of staff, rather than recruitment of staff. Courses were running at a maximum in terms of numbers, but retention was the real problem, partially due to the cost of living and house prices in the Thames Valley.
The PCC reported on the success of the increase in "stop and search". When it was applied fairly and properly, this was an effective weapon in the fight against crime.
Reference was made to the recent cut-backs in Magistrates Courts which had an impact on the judicial system in terms of cases collapsing due to distances witnesses had to travel and also to magistrates themselves. There could be other alternative venues used such as the local Council Chamber of a local authority. In relation to the judicial system, a Member raised the problem of the lack of pre-trial preparation for witnesses which meant that witnesses were ill prepared, that the Courts were not made aware of any adjustments which were required. An example was given of a wheelchair bound witness not able to access the Court room for a trial. The PCC said he would investigate this and update the Panel.
The PCC updated the Panel on progress made in terms of illegal encampments. Throughout the summer, there had been a number of illegal encampments within the Thames Valley. What was required was central legislation to provide a uniform approach to this to stop the travellers just moving on elsewhere. Many of the travellers originated from Southern Ireland, where illegal encampments were treated differently, whereby those travellers who trespassed on other peoples’ land, had their vehicles confiscated. Reference was made to the protocol which the Panel had agreed which provided a consistent approach to illegal encampments throughout the Thames Valley.
A discussion took place on the problems with non-emergency 101 calls, and that some residents had to wait an inordinate length of time for their calls to be taken. The Chief Constable commented that the Police Force’s Call Centre had had a challenging last couple of months, with an increase in the number of calls which had an impact on the service. This would improve and although there were examples of residents having to wait an unacceptable amount of time for their 101 calls to be answered, the vast majority of calls were dealt with efficiently within two minutes. The Panel was asked to note that calls to the 999 service were the priority and these were dealt at an average within 10 seconds. Reference was made to the online services which residents could use for non-emergency contact which would improve interaction between the Police and the public.
A Member raised a question regarding knife crime, and whether there was the need for a Knife Crime Policy. The Chief Constable commented that there was lots of working taking place around knife crime; in schools there was education and preventative work taking place around knife crimes. Thames Valley did not have the same level of problem as London. In response to a request for a breakdown of by local authority of the data for the number of people arrested for knife crime, Members were informed that this data would be held by the relevant Community Safety Partnership.
A question was asked about the number of assaults against police officers in the Thames Valley and why this was on the increase. The Chief Constable reported that the assaults data was possibly down to better reporting and recording and encouraging officers to report these assaults.
An update was provided on implementation of the apprenticeship scheme. The Panel was informed this was still in the procurement stage.
Reference was made to the "track my crime" initiative and an update was requested on this. The Chief Constable reported this would be operational in 2019.