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Norfolk's PCC and Chief Constable address policing and crime issues

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s quarterly meeting on accountability took place earlier this week, enabling local residents to ask questions to Norfolk Constabulary’s Chief Constable.

These meetings have been set up to allow Giles Orpen-Smellie, speaking on behalf of the public of Norfolk, to publicly question, challenge and hold the Chief Constable and senior officers directly to account for their delivery of policing services.

Questions from local people are sent in advance and on this occasion included enquiries about the number of new police recruits through the Government’s Uplift Programme and concerns around the rationale for the level of roads policing in Norfolk.

At the meeting on Tuesday 3 May, Mr Orpen-Smellie asked the Chief Constable Paul Sanford and his team of senior officers to respond to the questions.

Paul Sanford confirmed that: “Norfolk Constabulary’s allocation of the 20,000 Uplift is 224 officers. You’ll be aware though that all forces were required to allocate a proportion of those to their respective organised crime units. In our case 26 of the 224 will be going to the Eastern Region Organised Crime Units leaving the rest here for local allocation. The allocation over the three-year programme is 67 in year one, and then the same in year two and 90 recruits in year three. That said, we have accelerated our recruitment. We project, by the end of July, we will have recruited all of our officers through Uplift. It is important to add that it will take some time before these officers will have completed their training and be fully deployable.”

Mr Orpen-Smellie made the point that with more officers, there would be a need to have more staff to support them.

Mr Sanford responded that the Home Office had recognised this issue.  The early years of Uplift funding did come with enhanced funding per officer so that the Constabulary could recruit the staff and establish and buy the kit to get officers ‘on the road’. Extra staff included more colleagues in the resource management unit, more mechanics, a significant investment in the learning and development department and the development of the new training centre at Hethersett Old Hall School which has in part been funded by the Uplift funding.

Part two of the question was about the level of roads policing.  Paul Sanford replied: “The reality of policing is that I don’t think we will ever have sufficient resource to address all of the demands asked of us. So, we are regularly prioritising where we put our officers and in the case of roads policing we rely heavily on data relating to road collisions, volumes, locations and causation of road collisions which helps us to determine the number required to best ensure the safety of our roads.

“You will be aware that this very topic was a key point of discussion at the Road Safety Conference you [the PCC] and I attended only a couple of weeks ago.

“What I would say about roads policing is this, it is not solely through the deployment of police officers that you deliver road safety. Road safety is brought about through better road design, education campaigns and also through our camera enforcement teams, funded by the Road Casualty Reduction Partnership.

“So, am I happy I have enough road policing officers deployed? Yes, I am, mainly because they are part of a broad range of tactics that we use to deliver road safety.

“All of that being said though, we still know a number of fatal collisions on our roads in a year is always higher than we wish it to be and we are continually reviewing our data so, should I believe that I need to deploy more officers in this area, then we will do so but at the moment, set against competing demands, I think we’ve got the number about where it needs to be.”

The second question came from a Norwich resident about the night-time economy and, in particular, the reduction of public order policing on the Prince of Wales Road. The resident was still seeing issues beyond 5am.

Mr Sanford explained that for a typical Saturday night, excluding Special Constables, 27 officers are deployed to the Norwich night-time economy which was a significant proportion of resource. The vast majority of licensed places were shut by 4am, however, there was no hard and fast rule of when and how long the public stay out.  Certain establishments had a disproportionate impact on demand from the police and Mr Sanford was clear that there hadn’t been a reduction in policing, apart from during the pandemic when pubs and clubs were closed.  The Chief Constable said that in an ideal world, the officers deployed to the night-time economy would not be needed and they would instead patrol during the day and across the county where they would be seen by a wider number of people.

“Moving forwards for us, I think it’s important that we continue to have strong relationships with district councils across the county, so that rather than having to police problems in our night-time economy, we use the mechanisms made available to us through the Licensing Act to better ensure that those problems don’t occur in the first place.”

Other questions included the availability of front counters at stations across the county.  Opening hours are available on the Norfolk Constabulary’s website and there are no plans to change these.

What should someone do if they feel unsafe, particularly women? Mr Sanford responded by saying that the majority of police stations have yellow phones outside that have a direct line to the control room.  We would also encourage any person to call 999 should they feel unsafe and at risk of immediate harm.

The issue of a police presence and how to make people feel safer was also asked. Mr Sanford mentioned the success of the Street Safe pilot which was launched to help residents of Norfolk flag up areas in their community where they didn’t feel safe due to environmental issues such as poor street lighting, abandoned buildings or vandalism and/or because of some behaviours, such as being followed or verbally abused.

A Downham Market resident raised concerns over speeding and drink and drug driving which Mr Sanford confirmed that he would refer to the local police.

One of the Moonshot Operation teams, based in Downham Market had, in the last twelve months, made 57 arrests for drug driving offences in the Downham Market area.

The use of mini motorcycles in Kings Lynn was also raised.  Mr Sanford understood the dangers involved and that there were incidents of anti-social behaviour attached to people riding these.  Mr Sanford made assurances that targeted patrols were already looking into this.

The PCC asked a supplementary question as a result of the volume of correspondence he had received following a recent article in the Mail on Sunday.  The newspaper had previously requested information through the Freedom of Information Act about the use of training material around sexuality and gender.  Mr Sanford said that there had been no costs involved in obtaining and using this for staff training. The costs of dealing with the actual FOI far outweighed the cost of downloading the material from the internet.

Other items on the agenda included reports on three priority areas set within Norfolk’s previous Police and Crime Plan. These are the last reports presented against the old plan:

  • ‘Good Stewardship of Taxpayers’ Money’ – Including updates on a revenue underspend of £0.516m and the forecast capital position of £5.3m underspend due largely to the re-profiling of costs relating to the major estates scheme at Broadland and Hethersett.

  • ‘Support Victims and Reduce Vulnerability’ – Including an update on the Implementation of a Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Partnership Approach (DAPPA) trial in Norfolk. A reminder of the rationale around establishing the trial, an update on the current position and an outline of the next steps.

  • ‘Deliver a Modern and Innovative Service’ – Including an update on the change programme and progress within the Norfolk Contact and Control Room (CCR).

The next PCC Accountability Meeting is due to take place on Wednesday 2 August 2022. Previous meetings have taken place in a virtual format while cautions remain about the transmission of Covid-19 and a decision on the format of future meetings will be made in line with the most up-to-date guidance at the time.

The full agenda and reports as well as a recording of the meeting can be found on our PCC Accountability Meeting page where the minutes containing the questions and answers will also be published in due course.


Watch a recording of the meeting