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The Police and Crime Panel - 21st April

Residents of Norfolk had the opportunity to attend or live stream on YouTube the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel which took place on Thursday (21st April) at County Hall.

Under The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 201, the Panel gives representatives from local authorities and other stakeholder groups the opportunity to ask Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Giles Orpen-Smellie and Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, to share updates on delivery against the objectives from the Police and Crime Plan for Norfolk.

PCC, Giles Orpen-Smellie is responsible for scrutinising the performance of the force and how it is working to meet the priorities set out in Norfolk’s Police and Crime Plan.

The meeting focussed on the last performance report of the 2016-2022 Norfolk Police and Crime Plan, which included priorities set by the previous Police and Crime Commissioner.. Due to Covid-19 and the postponement of elections the plan was extended by a year.

Explaining the rationale behind this, the PCC said: “I wanted to align the outgoing plan and the incoming plan with the budget for those particular years.”

In March, the PCC published a new Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan for Norfolk and the priorities from this plan will be discussed at future panel meetings.

Due to the number of priorities, reports are provided on two themes at a time on a rolling basis so that a full year’s coverage of all the priorities can be achieved.

Progress was set out against the following two priorities:

Priority 2: support rural communities

Priority 3: improve road safety

How is rural crime being dealt with?

Giles highlighted the work of Norfolk Constabulary’s PC Chris Shelley who co-ordinates a network of rural beat managers.. Called the Community Safety Operational Unit (CSOU), they are responsible for delivering against the Operation Randall portfolio which includes rural crime and community engagement.

Police and Crime Panel members commented on the 56% fall in subscribers to the monthly Operation Randall newsletter which covers updates on crime prevention, initiatives and results, and details of engagement events across the county.  A change in service provider meant that new GDPR permissions had to be sought which had inevitably led to fewer people resubscribing during the pandemic.

However, the meeting heard that the newsletter is disseminated to several partner networks, including the National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association, Diocese of Norwich and Norfolk County Farmers.

Questions were also asked about the level of support to cope with rural crime.

Operation Randall, with a core team of eight, is also well supported by a network of Special Constables. They dedicate their time to rural policing to enhance visibility and the patrols already undertaken by regular officers.

The meeting also heard that Operation Huff has been launched in response to the rise in the number of thefts of high value agricultural GPS units. It has focussed on ensuring an improved level of service to victims of this organised crime, prioritising a consistent response, and ensuring forensic opportunities are not lost.

The constabulary has recently been successful in a bid to participate in a national drone project to research and develop ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS) permissions within the UK. 

The PCC said: “I would like to comment that the investment that we made in drones may be about to pay dividends because of the uncertainties over the future of the National Police Air Service which is going through a little bit of turbulence at the moment and we’re fortunate that, as part of that investment, we will continue to have a credible air capability throughout any choppy waters that may arise.”

The project will mean testing and developing emerging drone technology over the next 2-3 years working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in producing the safest and most effective unmanned platforms to provide air support along with cutting carbon emissions by reducing the number of times that the constabulary needs to call upon a more conventional aircraft response.

In the last calendar year, there were 1,725 drone deployments, including missing persons and saving lives.

Operation Galileo is the county’s response to the significant impact of hare coursing on the rural community.  In 2020/21 Norfolk achieved a 50% reduction compared to the 2019/2020 season.

Support is also given to Operation Seabird; initially a summer month campaign to combat coastline disturbance of nesting birds, the project has moved to seal protection in the winter months. The team continues to work closely with the RSPCA and Friends of Horsey Seals in tackling the issues.

Road safety remains a key concern for the Police and Crime Commissioner

The PCC said: “Turning to improving road safety, the focus has been on reducing the casualty toll on our roads, deaths and serious injuries. The trend does seem to be downward but there is a concern that there could be a post Covid upturn and the report describes the range of measures the constabulary are using to enforce laws intended to improve road safety and also, let’s not forget the wider measures supported by partners to educate road users about road safety so hopefully prevent road accidents in the first instance and thereby improve road safety.

“In that report I’d particularly like to highlight the excellent work done by Community Speedwatch Volunteers across the county and I think the level of engagement within those groups reflects the levels of concern within our communities about road safety.”

The PCC also shared the challenges of disrupted speed awareness courses due to the pandemic and the ongoing delays of more serious cases and getting them into court.

Norfolk Police revealed that more than 160 arrests were made during the Christmas campaign against drink and drug driving.

It was noted that speeding through villages resonated very deeply with residents across the county as a form of anti-social behaviour – a lot of the feedback through the recent budget consultation had been about speeding.

The Chief Constable pointed out that there were methods to calm speeding via education and the design of road safety measures which would allow resources to be better used elsewhere.

He added: “Equally, I hear regularly the issue.  The starting point of the challenge is in year 2020, 4.59 billion miles were driven in Norfolk.  We have one of the biggest road networks in the country.  So, we have a huge amount of activity on our roads and of course our officers cannot be everywhere. That being said, last year, in terms of enforcement of speeding alone, through various means both vans and road policing, 46,000 enforcements [were made], so we’re doing a lot. Over 1,000 vehicles seized via our Operation Moonshot teams.  Typically they are disqualified drivers or vehicles that are being driven in an anti-social manner.”

Police, Crime & Community Safety Plan for Norfolk 2022-2024

The PCC’s recently introduced Time to Talk sessions have been very well received.  The fifteen slots of 15 minutes with the PCC had been oversubscribed, however, a number of local councillors had taken the opportunity to use these slots instead of the intended audience. Going forward, they will be encouraged to go via their own channels of communication through the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) to have their say.

It was noted that 24% of reported crime is attributed to domestic abuse – a largely unseen crime.

The Chief Constable announced that there would be 200 newly recruited officers over a three-year period. They will be invited to specialise in certain areas such as rural crime to increase visible and trusted policing.

The Complaints Sub Panel reported that, since the last meeting there had been no public complaints against the Police and Crime Commissioner.