Combatting violence still priority as police prepare for 'financial challenge'
Fighting gang crime and youth violence remains a top priority for Suffolk's police and crime commissioner in 2019.
Last year was punctuated by “areas of deep concern” for Tim Passmore – not least the ‘county lines’ supply of drugs, which he labelled “the most serious threat to our county”.
In November, Suffolk received £57,000 to tackle violence through interventions with young offenders as part of a Home Office fund launched following the government’s serious violence strategy response to increases in weapons crime and homicide.
“Gangs and youth violence continue to be of major concern,” said Mr Passmore.
“But we’re determined to make Suffolk a hostile place for the dreadful individuals who want to target or county.
“It’s too early to see results of the serious violence strategy but it’s important the government realises the appalling knock-on consequences of these crimes.”
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary rated effectiveness of the force as ‘good’ last March, before a custody inspection found facilities well-maintained with strong governance and accountability. Mr Passmore said the results were among a number of positive outcomes, including a reduction in fatal road collisions (from 32 to 17) and progress in commissioning for the treatment of domestic abuse.
In October, a restructure of local policing saw 104 officers move into safer neighbourhood teams, but police community support officers cut from 81 to 48 full-time equivalent posts – diverting from the Local Policing Review of 2015, but promising to more effectively meet challenges against a £2.3m budget deficit.
Over four years, through collaboration and planned change, Suffolk and Norfolk have saved more than £34.5m. Meanwhile, a blue light integration programme has been ongoing since 2015, with shared police and fire stations set up to save money and make joint working more efficient.
“The financial challenge remains,” said Mr Passmore, who is proposing to raise the policing element of the council tax by £24 a year for a band D property to recruit another 29 officers, 24 staff investigators, a share of 45 staff with Norfolk, and to invest in technology and equipment. The proposal will see eight new officers in Ipswich and a squad of 21 to fight drugs and serious violence across the county.
A £24 tax increase would raise £6.5m, which, along with Home Office funding and a one-off grant towards a rise in employer pension contributions, would boost the budget by £9.2m – or £4.8m accounting for costs and savings over the year.
In-built savings of £2.5m have been made through more use of technology and mobile working, and through reducing duplication.
As the constabulary deals with the highest case load per officer in the country, but receives one of the lowest funding settlements, Mr Passmore said he would continue to gather evidence for Suffolk to get a better deal.
“The recruitment of more officers and civilian staff will help,” he added.
“The public wants more visibility, greater detection rates and more investment in technology.”
Proposals to increase the precept go before the Police and Crime Panel on January 25. A survey to gauge public opinion is open at suffolk-pcc.gov.uk until 9am, January 14.