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Three Important Documents

Monday, June 26th, 2023

A jigsaw of different agencies and services works to keep our communities safe.  In recent weeks three of the most important ones have published documents, stating their intention to put improvements in safety within our neighbourhoods at the top of their agenda.

title page of Safer Bucks Partnership Strategy 2023-2026

The Safer Buckinghamshire Partnership is a multi-agency partnership that brings together various partner agencies, with a responsibility for tackling crime and disorder within Buckinghamshire. Its central vision is “for Buckinghamshire to continue to be one of the safest places to grow up, raise a family, live, work and do business”, with a commitment to “addressing the issues that cause the greatest level of harm to our communities”.

Its strategy for 2023-2026 can be downloaded here:
https://www.csb-forum.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Safer_Bucks_Plan_2023_2026.pdf

title page of thames valley police and crime commissioner crimefighters strategy

Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Matthew Barber, published his Crimefighters Strategy in April.  This was a promised follow-up from his police and criminal justice plan, detailing his strategy for Neighbourhood Policing.   This can be viewed here: https://www.thamesvalley-pcc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/CRIMEFIGHTERS-Building-Confidence-in-Policing-18-April-2023-FINAL.pdf

Thames Valley Police polled residents in March/April on planned changes to the Force’s structure. These changes were said to be part of a rebalancing to Force resources to strengthen policing within local areas and neighbourhoods. The results and planned changes have now been published, and these will be implemented within Buckinghamshire during this calendar year.

Thames Valley Police: Local Policing Structures

Press Release: Number of neighbourhood police constables set to double across the Thames Valley

Safer Buckinghamshire Partnership

Members of the Safer Buckinghamshire Board are:

  • Buckinghamshire Council
  • Thames Valley Police
  • Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire & Berkshire West Integrated Care Board
  • National Probation Service – Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire
  • Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

The strategy uses crime information, known causes of crime, data from other sources, and the results of a public consultation, to pull together its set of priorities for 2023-26. These are:

  • Neighbourhood crime
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Serious violence
  • Violence against women and girls
  • Exploitation of vulnerable people

This may look like a list of policing priorities. This no coincidence.  The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 places a duty on the Police and local authorities to work together with partner organisations to form a Community Safety Partnership and develop a strategy to reduce crime within the local area. Delivery involves a wide range of partners from the statutory, community/voluntary and business sectors.

Police and Crime Commissioner – Crimefighters Strategy

The major themes in the PCC’s Crimefighters strategy are the need to build confidence in policing, and a rebalancing of Thames Valley Police to put more resources into Community and Neighbourhood Policing. As the following extracts show, these are closely connected:

“It is a simple fact that confidence in the police matters. Through the strategy set out in the document, I hope to lay the building blocks for cutting crime and also improving public confidence so Communities feel safer.”

“Whilst fashions and buzzwords come and go, the simple fact remains that policing will be judged by how safe we feel in our own communities.”

“Now is the time to revive true Community Policing.”

Achieving this will require addressing a number of challenges. These include:

  • improving public contact, including the familiar issue of reporting, in particular via 101.
  • restructuring the Force to put community policing at the heart of its operations, a process which the PCC says will require “courage”.
  • developing a clear purpose, structure and methodology for community policing.
  • should improvement in reporting result in increased calls, then proactive community policing must be in a position to respond proactively.
  • already dedicated Neighbourhood Policing numbers need to be rebuilt following, among other things, the demands to ‘backfill’ other teams to give new recruits protected learning time.
  • there is a commitment to increasing Neighboorhood Policing numbers, but also a recognition that ways need to be found to improve recruitment and retention, including of PCSOs.

The Crimefighters strategy document includes a number of other initiatives, none more intriguing than a paragraph entitled: “Establishing a Thames Valley CCTV Partnership”:

“Work is already underway to establish a Thames Valley-wide partnership to manage public space CCTV. This ambitious plan seeks to bring CCTV under the control of Thames Valley Police with the Force (in most if not all cases) owning, maintaining and operating the public space CCTV in each local authority area. Whilst financial contributions will still be sought from local authorities on a partnership basis, this model will require significant investment from the police. The benefits however are also significant. Not just better coverage, but easier access for officers investigating crimes and overall better value for the public purse by providing more cost effective monitoring in a small number of designated control hubs.”

Thames Valley Police Local Policing Structures

Back in April we asked residents to participate in a Thames Valley Police questionnaire regarding restructuring local policing.

The principal question was whether residents would be prepared to see a move to a 5-area Force command structure, from the 11 Local Policing Area (LPA) model. In either case, strong promises were being made about investment in local and neighbourhood policing, though TVP’s commentary suggested that the five-area command model would allow for additional resourcing (20 officers) to work with schools, and to work with partners on mental health (10 officers).

The conclusions of the consultation and process have now been published. The Force will now move to a 5-area command structure. Buckinghamshire will be one of the 5 (alongside Oxfordshire, Berkshire West, Berkshire East and Milton Keynes) and will be the first of the 5 to implement the new structure. This is expected to be in place by end-2023, with the others in 2024.

Below are the main themes arising from the public responses. TVP has published a detailed document spelling out these, and its responses (Click to open).

In bullets, these are the main themes:

  1. Visible policing
  2. Local knowledge
  3. Reducing drug crime and anti-social behaviour among children and young people
  4. Decision-making
  5. Resources drawn into bigger cities/towns
  6. Value of community policing and local intelligence
  7. Learning from previous restructures/other forces/organisations mistakes
  8. Roads policing

Many if not most of of these themes are familiar to us from our interactions and surveys over the past 5 years. So the concerns and frustrations are no surprise – what can be done to help alleviate them is the question. We encourage residents to read the document.

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