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PCC puts Norfolk residents’ questions to Chief Constable

The fourth PCC Accountability Meeting (PAM) of 2023 was hosted by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie, at his Wymondham office on Tuesday, 17 October.

The purpose of the PAM is for the PCC to hold the Chief Constable to account by discussing issues and making decisions in public.

At each quarterly meeting, Norfolk residents have the opportunity to send in their questions on policing and crime, in advance, to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and, on this occasion, the PCC had received four questions to ask the Chief Constable, Mr Paul Sanford.

Questions included vehicle parking within the Nelson ward of Norwich where obstructive vehicle parking had become an issue for residents unable to walk on pedestrianised paths. Why was there no definition of obstructive parking and no standardised reporting format available as common elsewhere in England?

Mr Sanford replied: “Most police forces in the country have moved on to a common website called Single Online Home. If you typed in Warwickshire Police, the site would have Warwickshire branding on it but it would be exactly the same website as Cheshire Constabulary and that means there is a commonality between services.  Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies are one of the last forces to merge onto Single Line Home and there were some contractual reasons why but at the start of November we are moving across to this national website platform. It will be Norfolk Constabulary branded and on there, there is a standardised national approach to the reporting of nuisance parking and abandoned vehicles. So that will see the Constabulary adopt the nationally agreed content for advice and reporting, so I hope that will address that issue.

The second part of the question asked, if obstructive parking was reported would Norfolk Police take action against such obstructions?

A similar question had been answered at the PAM meeting in July.

Mr Sanford replied: “In 2011, the law was changed to place responsibility in general enforcement of parking offences onto local councils and we no longer have powers under the Highway Act or the Traffic Act to deal with vehicles of that nature. We do though have some powers if those vehicles are causing a hazard or wilful obstruction of the highway and, in areas such as Norwich, where there are narrow streets, densely packed housing and ever growing number of vehicles on our roads, sadly we see too often vehicles parked or abandoned causing dangerous obstruction and I’d particularly be concerned for wheelchair users or those people using pushchairs when that is the case.

“Yes, through the new website that can be reported or, alternatively, to an officer in person or through email to Safer Neighbourhood Teams. When those matters are reported to us, we assess them based on the individual circumstances of each case and obviously what resources we’ve got for ourselves, according to what else is going on in the city at the time but if we can deploy to such incidents we will.”

The Safer Neighbourhood Team had been liaising with local Councillor Calvert about this matter and over the previous weekend a leaflet drop had been made to residents on the streets affected asking residents to be as responsible as possible. At present, it would be too early to see how successful that would have been.

Mr Sanford added: “I can understand why this must be a significant frustration for people living in that area particularly as said, for those who may be disabled or the elderly or trying to push children or simply just want to keep our roads and streets safe.”

Other questions covered included a system for confidential reporting, a review of stop-and-search body worn cameras and associated policies and the way Norfolk and Suffolk Police are tackling fraud.

The main focus of the meeting was ‘visible and trusted policing’, Pillar Two of the PCC’s Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan.

Introducing this item, Mr Orpen-Smellie said: “I’m going to start on a philosophical note, if I may. We talk a lot about visible policing – we use the buzz phrase a lot but I just thought we might begin by finding what we mean because is my understanding of the term the same as yours, is the same as the public’s? So, what do you regard as visible policing to be?”

Mr Sanford replied: “Well, I think it takes many forms, the most obvious one is that we accept that the public always wants and will continue to want to see a police officer on the streets but I don’t limit my definition of policing to that. My definition of visible policing extends to the public and the visibility of what we’re doing, the visibility of our actions. I think you can be just as reassured from receiving some communication to tell you what the police have done in your village, in your street, in your town in the last 24 hours as actually seeing that police officer on the street and that’s particularly the case now given that so much of police activity involves matters that happen behind closed doors.”

The rest of the meeting reviewed the other priorities of the PCC’s Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan:

  • Sustaining Norfolk Constabulary
  • Tackling Crime
  • Prevent Offending
  • Support Victims
  • Safer and Stronger Communities

The two parts of the meeting are now available on our PCC Accountability Meeting webpage.

The next PCC Accountability Meeting will take place on Tuesday, 30 January 2024 from 10am. The event will be held in the Barsby Conference Room, at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Building 7, Jubilee House, Falconers Chase, Wymondham, Norfolk NR18 OWW.