Following the November 2018 meeting the Committee invited the Police Crime Commissioner and Chief Inspector to attend this meeting.
Chief Inspector Kris Ottery introduced himself and his colleague Inspector Sharon Sawyer. It was noted that the Police Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne had responded to the Committee’s invitation but was unable to attend the meeting. Chief Inspector Ottery clarified that the level of crime in the district had increased but this was true of the majority of the country. Due to the current trend for vehicle related crime in beauty spots Sussex Police continue to work with a number of other local Police forces towards making significant arrests. He explained that whilst some arrests had been made catching organised criminals across a wide geographical area presents many challenges.
On behalf of the Committee Mrs Apel asked Chief Inspector Ottery and Inspector Sawyer the following questions (answers in italics):
· What is happening regarding the ongoing theft from motor vehicle (TRMV) offences around the car parks in the area? The incidents have been ongoing since early summer last year and there are still reports of more incidents happening. Due to the large number of incidents a lot of Police resource has gone into catching those involved however it can be difficult when the activity spans a wide geographical area.
· Following the closure of some police stations what are Sussex Police doing to reassure local communities in rural areas that they are going to get a quick response to emergencies? Response teams are still based at Chichester and Bognor Police Stations. When officers arrive on shift they are allocated an area to proactively patrol depending on the day’s events and when required will be deployed to deal with an incident. There are also Police hubs in Midhurst, Petworth and Selsey that can be utilised. With regard to the closure of the custody suite in Chichester a cost analysis exercise took place and it was not deemed cost effective to maintain the service. However, those requiring interview but not custody can still be seen in Chichester.
· Will the council tax increase and government grant result in 200 more Police in Sussex? There are now four additional people on the Neighbourhood Policing Team taking the numbers from seven to 11. The Missing Persons team has also seen recent investment as has the Community Investigation team.
· Is the shortage of Police the main reason for the drop in crimes solved across the country? A greater number of Police officers would in turn be likely to make a greater difference to crime however good results are still being achieved.
· What is the reason for shoplifters not being charged if the value of the theft is under £50? There is no specific cut off value for investigating shoplifting. Whether to investigate is decided on a case by case basis. It often depends on what other criminal activity (if any) an individual has been involved with. Early intervention is taken very seriously with partnership work involving social care and other agencies. The Police also have a good partnership with the council’s own officers.
· How are the Police tackling cyber-crime? A Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) has visited approximately 5000 people to help prevent this type of crime. Visits have been targeted at the vulnerable and those who work with the vulnerable. A Cyber Crime Unit has also been established in Sussex for more complex cases. The local banks also operate Operation Signature. The banking protocol has helped to successfully catch a number of individuals associated with this type of crime.
· How do the Police categorise and therefore determine whether to respond to a report of crime? Individual cases are often harder to solve than a series of cases where a pattern of behaviour can be identified and investigated. The value of a crime, vulnerability and solvability are all considered when assessing the level of priority given to the response. The response time for reporting non-emergency crime online is something that is regularly raised with the Police Crime Commissioner and work is underway to look at the system. It is hoped that now online reporting is up and running the benefit will begin to become apparent. If a member wishes to report something to the local Police they can use the local number and leave a voicemail or email the local Police direct. If a member of the public rings 999 and it is not an emergency the operator will ask them to call back 101.
· Do the Police still carry out investigations into burglaries? Burglaries are triaged based on the level of solvability which is decided on a case by case basis. It is recognised that a good level of support is important to victims following the level of intrusion they would have faced.
Members also asked the following questions:
· Do the Police still actively target suspects? Yes, this can be through investigation into other criminal activity the individual is involved in.
· Are most offenders locally based? A number of recent offenders have come from the Hampshire area and offend across Hampshire, Surrey, Thames Valley and Sussex.
· Could a community ‘purchase’ a Police officer? There has been much discussion about the possibility but the main issues remain that there would be additional costs and consideration has to be given to the affordability versus need. It is likely that those areas that would benefit most would be those unable to make the purchase.
· Are there any initiatives for the prevention of drugs? One big priority is prevention of county drug lines and cuckooing. As much as possible is being done through partnerships to work with potential victims.
· What are the Police doing to educate the public? Community events are held throughout the year and last year PCSO’s attended a number of community events. Members are invited to apply online to go on patrol with Police officers in a ‘ride along scheme’.
In response to a number of individual cases Chief Inspector Ottery explained that if members provide case number details he would follow up the enquiries.
On behalf of the Committee Mrs Apel thanked Chief Inspector Ottery and Inspector Sharon Sawyer for their time.