Vying for the business vote in crime elections
IT’S a largely unreformed service which offers poor value for money, is underfunded and overworked but is still the finest in the world.
These were among the views offered by the three men hoping to lead policing in Warwickshire next month.
Independent candidate Ron Ball, Conservative Fraser Pithie and Labour’s James Plaskitt all hope to be the county’s first elected Police and Crime Commissioner, in a role which will replace the current police authority.
With polling on November 15, the three gave their pitches at a debate organised by Warwick Chamber of Trade on Tuesday.
All three agreed new ways were needed to record and measure business crime. Former Warwick and Leamington MP James Plaskitt said it was “symptomatic of the mindset” that in the 60-page guide for candidates there was not a single mention of business.
Mr Plaskitt also pointed to the “dramatic mismatch” between Warwickshire having the seventh highest rate of business crime and ranking 39th in terms of crimes solved.
He said other forces had “vastly better” detection rates and firms who paid £20 million a year towards policing in the county were not getting value for money, with the best estimate of the cost at around £100 million.
Mr Plaskitt stressed he was not blaming officers, but said cuts in numbers from 810 to 680 officers in the past two years had gone too far, and claimed he could find £2 million to spend on recruitment.
Fraser Pithie, a former police authority chairman and special constable, opposed recruitment, saying the force should address sick leave, with the equivalent of 50 officers off sick.
Contrasting the police with the water industry in which he worked, Mr Pithie called the police largely unreformed” but still the finest force in the world.
He pledged a “relentless” focus on persistent offenders, particularly shoplifters and said there should be faster alerts to warn companies when crimes occurred.
Independent candidate Ron Ball said crime had fallen, with the only blip coming during major change last year. He pledged to invite the current Police Authority members to assist him for a year to maintain continuity.
He said employing more officers would be “hugely expensive” - with an extra 20 officers costing £1 million a year. He said early intervention would reduce the rate of reoffending, ultimately creating fewer victims.
The former airline pilot’s only moment of political naivety came when he described budget constraints as “tough, but do-able”, then said he would step down if lives were at risk.
Both Mr Pithie and Mr Plaskitt were quick to say they would never walk away.
Ron Ball said he would improve the Safer Neighbourhood Team arrangement, a Labour innovation he praised. Mr Pithie said following last year’s blip the force was “on to this” and concentrating its focus on the “nucleus” of persistent offenders. The former MP said Pcsos needed powers of detention - but Mr Ball said commissioners could not ask for this.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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