CRIME in Warwickshire has enjoyed the biggest fall since 2006 in the six months running up to September, says the county’s police force.
And it is down to “smart” policing, focusing on the criminals as well as the crimes - and the support of the public, Chief Constable Andy Parker told the Courier and Weekly News this week.
A few days after the publication of the force’s latest crime figures and a just weeks before the county’s first Police and Crime Commissioner is elected, Mr Parker and the outgoing Warwickshire Police Authority chairman, Phil Robson, spoke to reporter Sundari Cleal about the issues surrounding policing today.
Warwickshire Police statistics show there were 173 fewer reports of car crimes, 1,005 fewer reports of incidents of antisocial behaviour, 136 fewer reports of home burglaries and 26 fewer reports of robberies in the county from April to September this year compared to the same period in 2011.
Figures also show that there were 133 fewer people on record as having been victims of serious violence.
These statistics show, says Chief Constable Andy Parker, who assumed his role in December last year, that there have been 1,907 “fewer victims of crime” in those six months of this year compared to last - and more than 7,600 fewer than the same period in 2006.
He says: “It’s the best six months we have had and we are clearly delighted with that. Warwickshire is getting to be a safer place to live all the time.”
Mr Parker is firm in his explanation for the drop in crime figures. “The figures are going down because we are catching the criminals, “ he says.
“We have refocused a lot of our resources on to offender management and to targeting those individuals who cause the most harm.
“As soon as we see any individual beginning to commit crime, we are very proactive in taking action against them.”
Some 28 per cent of all crime in the county takes place in Leamington, Nuneaton and Rugby, Mr Parker says - and so an extra inspector, three sergeants and 15 police constables have been placed in these areas.
And instead of local investigation teams, the force now operates with specific teams who do nothing else but track crime and catch criminals.
Mr Parker is also keen to emphasise the difference working in a ‘strategic alliance’ with West Mercia Police is already making and will continue to make.
He says: “The forces will remain separate, but we are looking to do things once instead of twice where we can, for example calling on each other for assistance where it makes sense.
“We have to save £26 million by 2015, but we have already saved £16 million through restructuring our organisation in April 2011.
“That leaves £10 million to save. We are doing that by reducing management costs through the alliance with West Mercia so that we don’t have to impact on frontline policing.”
But the Warwickshire Police Federation, the union representing police officers, has said time and again that this level of cuts being imposed by the Government - which has already seen the loss of 200 officers and 240 police staff - will make it impossible for frontline policing not to be severely depleted.
“The federation is right in that the more resources we have, the more protection we can deliver,” Mr Parker says.
“We are saying that whatever the budget we are given, we will make sure we will provide the best protection possible with that figure.
“That means working smarter and with maximum support from our officers, staff and the public.”
He points out that the force has taken on 80 staff volunteers and 200 unpaid special constables, while officers also work closely with organisations such as Neighbourhood Watch.
He says: “The more resources we have, the more protection we are able to offer, but that does not mean we cannot continue to reduce crime and we have shown that.”
In the face of these depleted resources, is the force considering turning to the private sector for help?
“It’s not part of our strategy to outsource to private companies,” Mr Parker says.
“The recent publicity we have had surrounding that issue was ill-informed. We are putting in additional resources rather than replacing experienced investigators, for example by taking on former police officers to assist us as staff investigators.”
But he adds: “If there is a better way of catching criminals, I will always have an open mind, but at the moment we are not looking at the private sector.”
Looking ahead, Mr Parker says he is not expecting the new role of the Police and Crime Commissioner - who will be elected in mid November - to change the face of policing very much.
He says: “It’s important to recognise that in the present police authority, nine members are elected, so from a police perspective, it’s not an unusual position for us to have this type of governance.
“The authority holds me to account. In the future, it will be the police and crime commissioner who does that. My job does not change.
“We have been planning this for a year and we have been having regular meetings to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. Hopefully the public won’t see a change.”
But the future of policing in the county will need the help of the public, he says.
“If we want to maintain this level of cutting down on crime, we do need continued public support, for example people can become a volunteer or a special - but it is also a great help if people report anything suspicious to us and make sure they take as much care as possible of their property - particularly in their vehicles. We have had a lot of thefts from vehicles of things like Satnavs, iPods and mobile phones.
“We would be very grateful of this type of support.”
He adds: “Crime is going down, but we could always do better and we cannot do it alone.”