‘If you commit a crime, there’s a good chance you will be caught’

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Andy Marsh is the new chief constable of Hampshire police. Reporter Jeff Travis met up with him at the force headquarters in Winchester.

How does it feel to be the chief constable of Hampshire police?

Andy Marsh, the new chief constable of Hampshire ''Picture: Paul Jacobs  (13332-9)

Andy Marsh, the new chief constable of Hampshire ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (13332-9)

It’s an immense privilege to be chief constable of such a well-established, recognised, progressive force. It’s a huge responsibility to be leading the 5,500 men and women, but actually a huge responsibility to make the communities even safer. I want us to put those communities first – that’s who we are here for.

How are you going to reduce crime and make people feel safer?

We are catching more people than we have done before.

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are going to be very hostile environments for people who want to commit crime. There’s a good chance you are going to get caught. The police and crime commissioner is setting a very strong agenda to work with them to prevent reoffending.

What we don’t want to see is a revolving door. We want to see their criminal behaviour prevented and stopped.

Which crimes are you going to target?

I will work to a police and crime plan which the police and crime commissioner is currently consulting the public on.

I’ve got a good idea of what’s going to be in there, but it would be wrong to pre-empt a decision on that. When that plan is published it will be very clear what the public have asked the commissioner to hold me to account to deliver.

Figures show that crime is going down, but some people in the Portsmouth area say violent crime is happening on their doorstep. How are you going to make them feel safer?

The figures won’t make them feel safer alone. When they say ‘come down to Gosport and come to different parts of the community’, I will. The community will see me about. I will patrol with the police officers. I will see, touch it and feel it for myself. I do speak to victims of crime. The figures are reliable to some extent.

For example, if people’s houses are burgled or their vehicles are stolen, there’s a pretty good chance they are going to tell us about it.

Some types of crime are well-reported and actually those types of crime are going down significantly. Yes, society is too violent, and yes, I am committed to reducing it further.

How, specifically, are you going to reduce violent crime?

What we want to do is intervene early with violent offenders – whether it’s in the street or whether it’s domestic violence in the home – and to work incredibly hard to tackle the reasons why they are offending.

But also to make it clear to them that there are consequences. If you break the law and you hurt someone, then someone is going to be catching up with you soon.

You’re facing large budget cuts. How are you going to maintain frontline policing in the face of this?

We’re in a comprehensive spending review of four years and it ends in April, 2015. Over that four years we need to save £55m (out of a budget of £320m). It’s about 20 per cent and it’s a lot of money to save. What we have got to do is transform the shape of the organisation and the way we work.

We’ve got to equip our staff to use common sense and sound judgment to cut bureaucracy.

Do you think there are enough police officers patrolling the streets?

I am a police officer and have been for 25 years. I have seen the difference policing can make when it focuses on problems.

Absolutely, policing works and cuts crime. Of course, I would like to see more staff on the ground and of course, these cuts are incredibly difficult.

But actually the public expect me to do better and they expect me to do better with less money because of the difficult financial times we are in.

How will you be different to your predecessor Alex Marshall?

I will be different by being myself. I am not going to emulate the style with which Alex has done things. He’s been a very fine chief constable and it’s been a privilege for me to work with him.

But the things I will look to develop and build upon is I want Hampshire Constabulary to be built upon excellent leadership. We’ve got fewer people working for us – almost 1,000 fewer than three years ago. I need to create an environment where those individuals flourish. We need to work them hard, but we need to say thank you to them and listen to what they have got to say. I’m going to invest a lot of time in leadership.

I’m going to continue to keep the force at the cutting-edge of technology – that will mean lots of things, from body-worn cameras, to mobile technology that’s taken into people’s homes, to digital paperless files.

What do you mean by mobile technology?

I mean something like a tablet. If you are a victim of crime, I can bring it into your home, take an electronic statement and secure your witness signature.

That statement would go into a paperless file into the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts. We would be cutting out all sorts of bureaucratic transactions.

Does every police officer have a tablet?

No. Most safer neighbourhood team officers have BlackBerry devices which enables them to do all sorts of searching and inputting tasks which actually keeps them out on the streets rather than going back to the station to do it.

But you can’t take the statement on the BlackBerry. Our investigating officers are now just being equipped with laptops, which they can take statements on.

Do you want every officer to have this at their disposal? How long will that take?

Yes I do – as quickly as I can. We are already piloting the use of about 40 tablets.

One of the biggest drains on police resources is alcohol-fuelled crime and binge drinking. How are police going to tackle that?

I want us to be an intelligent organisation that understands the drivers and causes of crimes, that doesn’t dish blame out.

Blame generally doesn’t do well.

We want to work with the public, partner agencies and the voluntary sector to tackle the causes of crime.

We will work with licensed premises so that they can continue to develop ways of selling alcohol responsibly.

If someone is drunk, they are going to stop serving them.

As a consequence of alcohol being abused or misused, some people can’t take it and think it’s okay to damage property, act in a disorderly way or use violence. We will bring those offenders to justice, absolutely.

But one of the examples of where we can use that information in an intelligent way is if you commit a violent-related crime in Portsmouth and we bring you to justice, I would expect you to be banned from licensed premises in Portsmouth.

That would be quite a significant restraint on your behaviour that I think you would take pretty seriously.

The police and crime commissioner wants us to develop the way we deliver justice.

So we would be looking at more use of restorative justice. As an offender you would be brought to bear personally on the consequences of your crime to the victim.

It’s not that often that offenders have to confront personally the damage they have caused. We will see more of that going on.

What are your thoughts on drugs?

People can make money out of it but if they want to buy drugs they need a lot of money.

One of the unfortunate consequences, apart from the misery caused by drug addiction, is that people addicted to drugs unfortunately commit a lot of crime to fuel that habit.

If I want to be successful in reducing crime where people are stealing things to get money I have to work with drugs treatment providers and other services to treat people who are addicted.

I also have to work with young people, schools and communities to intervene early to prevent people getting involved in drugs in the first place.

Do you think people respect the police?

I do know from surveys that we do that the police do have a lot of respect and support from the communities we serve.

But there isn’t any way I take that for granted. We have to do a good job to be respected and we have to care for people.

What role do you think parents can take in preventing their children getting involved in wrong-doing?

I’m a parent myself. I know it’s a tough job. In some respects it’s tougher than being a chief constable because you are never going to get it right all the time.

I’m not sitting here saying parenting is done badly, it’s the root all of all problems. I know it’s difficult.

Parenting has such an important role in establishing the fabric of society. Just bringing up children who are prepared to do their bit, whether that’s paying tax, abiding by the law, engaging in voluntary work and being a good neighbour.

I think there are lots of reasons why people get involved in crime. I want to be careful not to position police as social engineers.

We are actually a law enforcement agency.

But I think we need to be careful about stigmatising people as criminals – quite a lot of people have a brush with the law, sometimes when they are young.

I want to work with the police and crime commissioner to provide some common-sense solutions that mean they never ever come to us again.

That they will say: ‘I got involved in Hampshire Constabulary, it wasn’t a nice experience because I did something wrong, but they helped me get back on the straight and narrow and look what I’ve achieved in my life now’.

What new challenges do you think you face in 2013 as criminals are getting smarter?

So much more crime is committed online now. People are vulnerable online, especially our children.

Some of that crime is committed – let alone in Hampshire or the UK – around the world.

How we rise of the challenge of that global community online is an issue, both in terms of protecting the public but also in terms of how we protect financial assets and potential fraud and deception online.

What we have seen from the inquiry into Jimmy Savile is that sometimes people use their status to abuse their position.

Sometimes we haven’t believed victims as much as we should have or been there for them or recognised the early warning signs of abuse.

We will use our experience to learn and improve.

Who makes the decisions – you or the police and crime commissioner?

I make the decisions on all operational policing. That needs to be independent. Operational policing has always been independent from politics and it’s going to stay that way.

I make the decisions on who gets investigated, by who and when, who we arrest and when, how the staff are deployed to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

The commissioner sets the budget and holds me to account. You can expect him see him holding me to account publicly and that is something that will be very different about the new set-up.