Bobbies on the beat

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Will we see more of the police?

In our issue of October 4, we wrote praising the initiative of two junior officers from Sussex Police in visiting Rye.

PC Daniel Smith and police staff, Ben Carslake were touring the towns and villages in a police van, getting to know anyone who would like to talk to them either to discuss local problems that might concern the police or just to have a chat and make the police presence more visible in towns and villages where the “bobby on the beat” was rarely seen.

The 2018-22 Transformation Strategy from Sussex Police says that:
“. . . we recognise that many members of the public feel reassured by a visible policing presence – even in areas where crime is low and the likelihood of being a victim of crime even lower.”

The implementation of centrally imposed austerity measures has however dramatically cut Sussex police resources and presence as part of the 19% national cut in police funding.

A strongly worded report from the Home Affairs select committee last week said the Home Office had put the public’s safety at risk by lack of investment in the nation’s police force. Police forces have lost, on average, at least a fifth of their neighbourhood policing capacity since 2010 while crime rose by a third from that date.

The chairman of the committee, Labour’s Yvette Cooper, is reported in summing up, saying:
“Crime is up, charges and arrests are down, and the police service is struggling to respond effectively to emerging and growing challenges, such as online fraud and online child abuse. Policing urgently needs more money. The government must make sure policing is a priority in the budget and spending review, or public safety and communities will pay the price.”

In our area, by increasing the police precept in council tax and releasing £17m from reserves, Sussex Police assert they it has begun to reverse the policy on frontline policing.

Some 70 new police officers are being trained and due to be in service by December. This is part of the proposal to have 200 officers returned to neighbourhood policing by 2022.

It has have already made almost £90m of efficiencies and savings to counter the reduction in government grant funding. It will continue to try to find efficiency savings in service delivery via technology and collaboration, and the pressure police officers and staff experience due to increasing demand and a more complex workload is acknowledged.

Cybercrime, organised crime, drugs across county lines and child protection are Home Office priorities. The Chancellor’s budget on Monday seems to confirm this assessment as Philip Hammond did give an extra £160m for counter-terrorism policing.

Unsurprisingly Hastings Council leader and Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Hastings and Rye, Peter Chowney, commented in a Labour Party press release:
“Austerity for our police is the last thing we need in Hastings and Rye. We have been told by government that austerity is over, so why are we still seeing cuts to police budgets?

“Since 2010, police resources have been cut dramatically. Enormous demands are being made on the police to tackle the ‘county-line’ drugs trade, address safeguarding of children issues and cybercrime, all of which have increased significantly.

“I’m pleased that additional short-term funding for policing in Hastings town centre has been found. But this does not solve the longer-term police funding crisis, nor does it address the concerns local people have about policing in other parts of Hastings and Rye.

“Frontline police officers do not seem to be covered by reserves money. Despite asking questions about it we have had no answers.”

The National Audit Office and the Home Affairs Select Committee are both concerned that cuts had left forces struggling to protect the public and the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said he believed forces should get more money. Last week the Home Office released the following statement:

“The government is committed to continuing to ensure that the police have the resources they need to do their vital work, and the Home Secretary has been clear that he will prioritise police funding at the next spending review.”

Former Home Secretary and Rye MP, Amber Rudd, however, has told Rye News:
“I am pleased that crime has reduced locally. In October of last year we had [for example] 253 total crimes in the central Hastings area, which has fallen to 183 for September of this year. This is a 28% decrease in crime in one year, and is clearly testament to the hard work of our police officers and our Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne. Let me be clear that any crime is unacceptable and I will continue to work with our police forces locally to combat it.

“Looking nationally, the Government has made provision for £450 million more funds to allow for additional police recruitment. In Sussex the Police and Crime Commissioner is recruiting 200 more police officers this year.

“I am also pleased that Labour’s Peter Chowney joined the meeting I called on September 14 in St Leonards to ensure that residents’ concerns are really listened to. Local leaders of residents groups expressed their dissatisfaction with the councils response. The meeting helped me to make the point that local anti-social behaviour blights communities. It is right that we elected politicians work together to address their concerns and ensure local and national resources tackle disruptions & violence in our streets.”

By comparison, there were just 47 crimes reported in Rye in August 2018. 8 anti-social behaviour, 5 burglaries, 4 criminal damage and arson, 4 thefts, 4 shoplifting, 2 public order offences and 14 violence and sexual offences, 1 bicycle theft and 5 vehicle crimes.

The Chief Constable, committed along with the PCC, to the Sussex Police new model of policing, writes in his foreword to the Strategic Plan:
“The change programmes we have underway have been based on a robust analysis of how and when people need us the most, always using the principles of threat, harm and risk and resourcing those programmes based on demand. This important work must continue even with this change in our financial position.”

Rye police station is open from 1pm to 4pm. Battle from 9am to 12 noon, Bexhill from 10am to 2pm and from 3pm to 6pm. Police HQ in Lewes is not open to the public.

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