HAMPSHIRE’S Police and Crime Commisioner Simon Hates answers a series of questions after 100 days in the role.
The News featured a report this week saying that only one in 10 people can name the police commissioner for Hampshire. What do you make of this?
One of my responsibilities is to make the public aware of what it is that I do and how this will improve the policing they receive. The article was interesting and perhaps began to raise awareness of my existence which I welcome. But it has only been 100 days. It’s very early to say that there is not a public interest and the work of the commissioner has failed.
There’s certainly all to play for.
One of your priorities is to improve front-line policing. How are you going to do this in the face of budget cuts?
At the election, I spoke of increasing front-line personnel by 200 during my time of office. That we will do and begin to do during the next financial year.
Front-line policing is officers as well as the control centre at Netley, which is where people contact the police in the first instance. We will be looking at deploying officers more effectively in order for them to be more productive on the front line. I shall be raising the precept this financial year. It will be a rise of £5 a year (For a Band D property police services will cost £151 a year rather than £146) That will go towards the delivery of front-line policing.
Are you going to get more officers out on patrol on foot?
Certainly what we are not going to do is reduce the number of neighbourhood teams. The concept of neighbourhood policing is very important.
There are police officers out there. People often say they don’t see one but equally others say they do have good interaction with the police on patrol. The reality is that to have more police on foot is going to cost more money.
The balance is how much more would the public be prepared to pay for that policing presence? One thing we can do is create a better response. So when the public need a police officer, we get them there more quickly. That is based on having more effective capability in the control room so officers in cars can go to an area.
Have you had any negativity from any rank and file police officers about your position?
I can genuinely say I haven’t. I have been holding a series of meetings with front-line police officers in order to make sure I have my finger on the pulse.
I have good relations with The Police Federation and Unison so I can continue to understand what the challenges are. I have been out on patrols. I need to walk the floor, I have been to Portsmouth, Havant and Waterlooville and other parts of Hampshire.
Which particular crimes do you think need targeting most?
Domestic abuse will be a priority in the policing plan. The other area is the high-level of reoffending among young people who commit anti-social behaviour. We need to be working with partners to reduce the level of reoffending.
Related to both youth crime and domestic violence is drug-related crime and the influence of alcohol. We need to do some specific work to reduce, as much as possible, the availability of illegal substances.
How specifically will you reduce drug-related crime?
We need to deal with the user. We need work programmes that will turn them away from their use of drugs and alcohol. A lot of it stems from depression and difficulties in life. We need to work with other statutory bodies and charities to support individuals at their time of need.
How are you going to tackle anti-social behaviour?
Anti-social behaviour covers quite a lot of things, from young people just gathering on a street corner and chatting, also covering vandalism and graffiti. Those areas are partly addressed by working with schools.
You say you are going to place victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system? What does this mean?
We understand the effect crime has on a victim. What happens far too frequently is the offender turns up at court for a hearing which is delayed a day or two days. A witness is asked to turn up to court and has to take time off work.
Sometimes they can’t take any more time off, so don’t turn up to court, so the case is heard and then fail because there’s no witness there. So it’s understanding the needs of the victim. If victims turn up to court, they don’t want to be queueing up at the coffee machine behind the person that’s domestically abused them.
It’s adding space for different parties. It’s about encouraging the criminal justice system that the times of cases being heard are more specific.
What issues do you think specifically need targeting in the Portsmouth area?
The fact that Portsmouth is in effect an island, it’s a very close-knit community.
There are issues around working with young people, issues around anti-social behaviour which is fuelled as a result of drugs. These are areas that need to be addressed working with partners and the city council.
Are we likely to see more officers armed with tasers?
The availability of tasers for officers is something the chief constable has said he would like to have.
Certainly we are looking to fund that so that it is an extra tool. Not only does it protect them in the line of duty, but it also protects the public from an individual who otherwise might cause harm. PCSOs would not carry them. It would be used by officers that have been properly trained to use it.
Which areas do you see as of lesser priority for the police in the wake of budget cuts?
Without being specific, in any organisation, you have to be realistic about what you can actually do with what is available.
I think to use police resources on a regular basis for minor speeding is not the best use of resources.
Where are there specific issues, the police will continue to deal with it. What we would want to do generally is use volunteers to support police.
We have a very good Community Speedwatch scheme which trains local individuals to monitor speed levels and get in touch with people who speed to make them aware it is causing trouble.
The reporting of child abuse is becoming more apparent in the wake of the case. How is the force going to respond to this?
We are taking it very seriously. All the capability and investigative and authoritative powers will be used to consider allegations. Historic cases will be looked at. It’s not a culture of ignoring historic cases and child abuse is one of those.