Here's why spending the extra cash will reap dividends says police commissioner in address to Cambs parish and town councillors
PUBLISHED: 16:19 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:22 01 May 2019
Police & Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite has explained his policing strategy for the next year at an event held in Ely.
Speaking to an audience of parish and town councillors (Friday), Mr Ablewhite said: “We have worked hard to build a combined force made up from seven police forces, who once worked separately but now work together beating crime.
“This gives a combined power of £190m to spend on goods and services to safeguard the public and, yes, while I had to ask for an additional £0.50p per week in council tax, it safeguarded the 80 PCSOs we already have, and will pay for more officers on the beat.
“Historically, this means Cambridgeshire now has more police officers in 2020 than ever before, with the total rising to 1496; beating the old record set in 2004, of 1442.
“You don't need me to tell you that in recent years there has been a marked shift in the way that the police carry out their work.
“Social vulnerability has altered what we do taking us away from traditional crime towards cybercrime, and the police now attend far more mental health issues than ever before.
“Cambridgeshire – for reasons I have yet to fathom out – has twice the national average of mental health call-outs to the police than the rest of the country.
“But we have to respond to all of these needs because the first priority of policing is, and always will be, the preservation of life; but as you can imagine, addressing mental health issues uses up a lot of valuable police resources.
“For example, in just the last year, our specialist insurance went up by half a million pounds, and the forensic science company we had to use went bust, which meant outsourcing material at very high cost.
“Without those expenses I would've been able to put an additional 200 police officers on the streets of Cambridgeshire.
“One of the first things that I did when I took on this job was to put the separate 999 and 101 call centres in the same building. They used to be in Spalding and Peterborough, but the new hub in South Cambridgeshire now takes on 350,000 calls per year.
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“When I am asked what frightens me the most about crime, I say that the increase in knife crime and the rise in drugs, sourced from the cities, keeps me awake at nights.
“But together with our new Chief Constable, Nick Dean, we are determined to forge partnerships with communities, schools, businesses, councils and whoever it takes to get to the bottom of why it is certain young men – usually men with no criminal background – now feel the need to carry a blade. We will find out why, and we will change their mindset.
“We all read about the 18-year old girl with no criminal record, who went out for an evening with her boyfriend in Peterborough last October, had an argument with him and then stabbed him once through the heart. He died.
“She will have the next seventeen years in prison to ponder on what made her carry a blade that night. We have to find a way to stop this.
“That said, 95 per cent of all the knife crime in Cambridgeshire last year was drug-related, and that is the other issue we are dealing with.
“Drugs are cheap and everywhere, and because the cities are saturated with cheaper-than-ever drugs, the rural regions like ours have become a new hunting ground for the drug dealers.
““That said, Cambridgeshire, and particularly East Cambridgeshire are among the top twenty safest places in Britain to live.
“Crime is very low here, and as a consequence you pay less for your policing at just £0.42p per day, compared to the national average of £0.51p per day”.
Mr Ablewhite introduced Ely-based police sergeant Mark Rabel who told the meeting: “Last year we responded to 12,000 cases, of which 40 per cent required an instant response. Ely alone had 3,000 calls most of which were parking issues – the bane of my life – but there were the usual suspects: anti-social behaviour, begging, boy-racers, travellers and drugs.
“Sadly there were 340 road traffic accidents in our region, in which 200 people were injured and 52 people died – this is the hardest part of policing and it never gets any easier.
“There are good days though, and only yesterday I attended a sting operation in which four hundred 2m high cannabis plants worth £350k were seized, and three persons locked up – all of which came from a local tip-off.
“This is the best part of police work and working closely with the community, both in the towns and rural areas really does pay dividends.”