PCC holds accountability meeting
The Police and Crime Commissioner’s regular accountability meeting took place on August 16 at Breckland Council in Dereham, enabling local residents to raise questions for Norfolk Constabulary’s Chief Constable. This was the first meeting held in public since the start of the pandemic.
This was also the first meeting to review performance against the priorities in the PCC’s Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan for Norfolk (2022-24).
Opening the meeting, PCC Giles Orpen-Smellie asked on behalf of a King’s Lynn resident about the increasing numbers of children seen on scooters being used illegally.
Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, said: “There is public confusion of what you can and cannot do with the use of scooters, particularly in Norwich. Trials are taking place where people can hire scooters which can be legally driven on roads whereas privately owned scooters cannot."
Mr Sanford added that an advertising campaign by the constabulary and councils to increase awareness had been launched to educate people on the use of scooters.
Partners including Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards had also been involved with the launch of an Education Programme targeted at 15-19 year-olds.
The meeting heard that it is standard practice to stop offenders to check if they have been stopped before. If warnings had been ignored, enforcement would take place.
The second question involved the backlog of shotgun licences and the concern of licences being extended short-term.
Mr Sanford said the extension of necessary health checks to provide the appropriate certification had created a backlog.
The PCC asked when this would be eliminated and Mr Sanford said the priority for the constabulary was to focus on renewals as opposed to requests for new licences.
Deputy Chief Constable, Simon Megicks said: “The backlog is between 0.1 and 0.3% of the 45,000 licences equating to less than 1%. It’s about risk management and the mitigation of risk. Temporary permits have been issued with guns taken into our armoury for safety.”
The third question focussed on the perception of increased violence in the city of Norwich following the stabbing of a woman outside a pub on Ber Street in the city centre.
The PCC highlighted that in the past two weeks there had been more media attention on incidents of violence with the perception that people were at greater risk.
Mr Sanford said: “The constabulary has not had the opportunity to respond to the incident in question due to difficult timelines, however, the story had been balanced and with the investigation ongoing, we would not be able to say too much.
“The individuals involved with this incident all knew each other and were known to have existing grievances. Generally, crime of this nature is not randomly targeted and is usually between people who know each other. The rates of violent crime are no higher than elsewhere in the country. Better recording means that two to three crimes can now be recorded per an incident like this.”
In terms of policing over the summer season, Giles had received positive messages from a councillor praising the policing of recent events during the influx of more tourists to the county but wanted to know how community policing was being sustained.
Mr Sanford said: “Norfolk Constabulary currently has 1,800 police officers, the highest number for some time, taking us back to pre-austerity numbers. Out of the government’s 20,000 Uplift programme, Norfolk’s slice is 224 officers. Training classrooms have never been fuller. This is an increase in numbers of officers and not staff. At any one time, there are between 60-65 response officers on duty, so 1,800 officers soon boils down.
“The summer population explodes in July and August with tourists. Every month of this year there has been record 999 calls made to the police. So far, August’s volume of calls has equated to the volume made on New Year Eve’s two years’ ago.”
Giles also brought up the response times for 999 and 101 calls.
Mr Sanford explained that the same staff members answered both 999 and 101 calls. They prioritised 999 calls which have increased by over 15% percent between June 2020 and June 2022. This had an impact on 101 call wait times however 90 percent of 101 calls were answered within 14 minutes.
Mr Sanford said: “These figures are higher than I would want but nationally we are in a strong position and are better than other public agencies such as the passport office. Over the last few years we have given more resources to our switchboard service thanks to the precept funding.”
Other items on the agenda included constabulary updates on the six priorities of the PCC’s Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan 2022-2024 which was launched 31 March this year:
Sustain Norfolk Constabulary – including the issues and challenges on funding the 5% pay increase for police officers beginning 1 September 2022.
Visible and Trusted Policing – including the introduction of hybrid SNAP meetings for police engagement with local communities
Tackling Crime – including the disproportionality of stop and search on people from an ethnic mix and what the advisory role of agencies and the PCC’s Independent Advisory Group do to advise.
Prevent Offending – including the efforts of the Norfolk Anti-Slavery Network and the growing economic pressures that make people vulnerable.
Support Victims – including the impact on victims and witnesses who are experiencing substantial delays for cases to come to court.
Safer and Stronger Communities – including how crime is recorded, the different types of emerging crime and the level of demand driven by mental health cases.
Due to technical difficulties on the day of the meeting (Tuesday 16 August) no recording of the meeting was made.
The full agenda and reports of the meeting can be found on the PCC Accountability Meeting page where the minutes containing the questions and answers will also be published as soon as possible.
The next PCC Accountability Meeting is due to take place on Tuesday 25 October at 10.30am, and the venue will be announced closer to the date.