I published the first ever Police and Crime Plan for Staffordshire in 2013 and since that time the complexities for policing and criminal justice have evolved enormously.
The scale of online crime has grown and now outstrips what we oddly call traditional crime such as burglary or being robbed on the street. Online crime is varied from defrauding thousands of people in one click to paedophiles using the internet to distribute child abuse videos and images or individuals inciting terrorism and hatred.
The internet has been a force for good but it also allows crimes against people here to be carried out by individuals or criminal gangs in a country the other side of the globe. This not only needs different skills for policing Staffordshire, it means that law enforcement across the UK, across Europe and across the world needs to be better joined up and able to cooperate more effectively than in the past.
The changing context of crime and the potential harm being caused has shaped the work my office is doing with the police and others here in Staffordshire as well as regionally and nationally.
It also highlights the risk that Staffordshire Police are so focused on high level and fast changing crime that visible community policing is seen as less important. That must not happen.
That very local policing is also crucial in connecting what happens in communities to the specialist protective top end policing and security which could keep people safe in the most extreme and unlikely of circumstances.
The terrorist attacks in the spring and early summer of 2017 bring home the need to ensure that the resources available and the collective responsibilities that the police service and other public agencies have are managed effectively. This is complex work and a fast changing agenda ranging from understanding the nature of any threat, to the prevention of radicalisation, to making sure that all agencies can react if and when needed and many things in between. With the police and others that work in this environment, I want to make sure that we are as well prepared as we can possibly be.
We’ve improved the financial position for policing in Staffordshire since 2013 which means neighbourhood policing numbers have been maintained, unlike some of the UK. When used effectively by the police here it can provide the visible reassurance policing which is so important to local people.
Better finances also mean I’ve been able to allocate a multi-million pound fund for investment to make sure the technology available to Staffordshire police goes from a less than adequate position in 2013 to a ground breaking position by 2019.
That journey is well underway and the agreement I signed with Boeing Defence UK in 2016 will help to meet my pledge when becoming the PCC to make Staffordshire Police the most technologically advanced local force in the UK.
Much has been done to deliver against the priorities I set out in my first term. The core of the first Safer, Fairer, United Communities Strategy remains as important now as it did when I started. The fact that criminality and harm often stems from family and societal issues covered by numerous public services hasn’t changed and neither has policing and criminal justice often being the final ‘destination’ when early opportunities are missed or things go wrong in public services.
This refreshed strategy builds on the work in my first term, seeking partnerships and joint approaches that challenge silo thinking across public sector bodies in order to get ahead of demand, instead of always chasing it. Dealing earlier with the causes rather than effects of societal change, new threats and changing criminality is essential. We are collectively not doing enough in Staffordshire or nationally on this.
Locally, I intend to establish a Commission to look closely at the barriers to better joint working, the failure to effectively share data across agencies and how we can remove the obstacles. Public services that work in isolation from each other waste money, get in the way of better outcomes and risk the demand for future services outstripping the resources available to provide them. The clock is ticking!
The ‘Connected Staffordshire Commission’ could shape the way ahead by helping joint working so that the public are better served by the services we all fund.
There are big opportunities in the next few years to do things differently, deliver public services more intelligently and use public money more effectively. But we must grasp those difficult opportunities that can lead to new thinking.
In this strategy you can read about what has been achieved so far towards the core principle of agencies preventing harm by working better together, supporting victims sooner and reducing reoffending for the long term.
We have built strong foundations to reinforce the legitimacy of policing by consent and underpinned it by bringing greater transparency than ever before to the way the police carry out their work. More people than ever before from across communities in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are involved with making the work of police more transparency and accountable.
I cannot deny the last 40 months has had its ups and downs. If I’m honest there have been serious frustrations as well as important successes. My second term is likely to be more difficult than the first. The scale and complexity of criminality and social ills means the need to reform police and criminal justice services, and others, in order to work more effectively together is paramount.
The second term is also an opportunity and I’m confident that whilst policing and community safety will develop, change and adapt, it will ultimately be stronger and more resilient as we progress this Safer, Fairer, United Communities strategy.
The PCC has set out five clear priorities, focusing on what matters to local people