Blog: Technology to the rescue

A crucial part of my job as Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner is listening to and engaging with local people. I find this process of great benefit personally as it provides me with a wealth of information for holding our constabulary to account and helps me shape my Police and Crime Plan. Inevitably this process was challenged severely during lockdown when public face to face meetings were out of the question.

However, all was not lost. Technology came to the rescue and holding on-line meetings has become a normality for business, friends and family right across the globe. Some of our public meetings have been held very successfully online and no doubt will continue, but it is not quite the same as meeting in person so I believe we will end up having a combination of virtual and in person engagement opportunities in the future.

One such public engagement opportunity, which we have held regularly over the years, is the joint annual webchat and earlier this month the Chief Constable and I hosted what I think was the most successful webchat to date. The chat resulted in a huge number of questions – more than ever before.

The range of topics raised varied considerably. There was significant interest in driving standards and speeding enforcement specifically on the major road network. I have always done everything possible to increase our roads policing capacity, because I know how important free flowing traffic and road safety is for Suffolk – you may have seen how the Special Constabulary is supporting our roads policing based at Bury St Edmunds.

Concern was raised around the County Lines challenge. I would really like to reassure you the Constabulary has made great progress over the last year with breaking up various county lines that do so much harm in society. This has been particularly effective in the west of Suffolk, and it is a credit to all involved that this “Team Suffolk” approach continues to yield excellent results.

Recruitment was a further topic and linked to increasing visibility. That, as I’ve said many times is exactly what all of us desire in a perfect world. Due to extra money from the Council Tax and the government’s national uplift programme, the number of fulltime officers in Suffolk will rise to around 1400 within eighteen months – many more than since I was first elected nine years ago. This really will have a very positive impact on visible policing but please remember the change in the pattern of crime is fundamental – much more takes place out of sight. Online crime, fraud, domestic abuse and forced labour did not have the current profile or frequency in years gone by.

Issues raised at the webchat will be considered as I reflect on the final draft of our new Suffolk Police and Crime Plan which I am planning to issue early next year. It is a requirement for all PCCs to draft and consult on a new plan for publication within a year of the elections. I am particularly grateful to all of you who responded to our online consultation on the draft plan. There were around 250 responses and the main areas raised were dealing with anti-social behaviour, public communication, and engagement and increased officer visibility.

On communication there is already a scheduled £250k programme for improvements to the 101-call system, funded by the increase to the policing element of the council tax precept. With the easing of lockdown, the level of public engagement is now rapidly increasing, including by myself and new communication methods are proving very successful. Much more is being delivered through live chat and other online channels are growing all the time. The Community Engagement Police Officers are out and about all over Suffolk and I have been very pleased to join them and meet many of you once again.

The next few weeks will be some of the most crucial for me this year as we consider the Police and Crime Plan consultation and update the draft which I hope it will be agreed by the Police and Crime Panel at the January meeting. This will be the same meeting where I present the force budget proposals for the next financial year. This will doubtless be a very full morning of discussion. The Police and Crime Panel is a public meeting administered by the county council and held at Endeavour House, if you are interested you are welcome to attend, the details are on the county council website.

Published in the Bury Free Press November 2021