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Visit of Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire, Lord Willy Bach

Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Lord Willy Bach, held a meeting in the village in November 2017. Although it was not particularly well attended, there was a lively discussion.

Lord Bach, accompanied by a uniformed Inspector, was elected in May 2016 in an election that had less than 20% of the electorate using their vote. His role is to listen and form a bridge between the police and the public. He is required to develop a strategic plan with the Chief Constable to police Leicestershire. The operational management of the police rests with the Chief Constable. The PCC passes 95% of the county’s policing budget to the Chief Constable. The budget is received as 2/3 from central government and 1/3 from precept (local taxation). Lord Bach noted that the budget was sufficient for one officer for 430 people in 2009; it is currently at one officer for 601 people. For 2016/2017 the net annual revenue budget was £170.8 million. In December 2017, the PCC launched a survey to determine if council tax payers would support an additional £1 per month charge for a typical Band D house towards policing. The survey is at www.leics.pcc.police.uk/budgetconsultation.

The PCC is in full-time employment and daily contact with the Chief Constable. The role has replaced police committees, giving more availability to listen to the public. Leicestershire Police with the PCC work closely with local authorities such as Charnwood Borough Council and these partnerships are seen as very significant in the policing of local areas.

Discussion focussed on local issues and the role of the police officers serving the village. Barrow shares its local police support with surrounding villages. There is one sergeant, one constable and two community support officers (PCSO). These officers do not respond to acute policing incidents, which are covered by other teams of officers from around this area. Leicestershire police HQ is at Enderby.

The audience raised a number of local policing issues where the perception is that these are given low priority, no action taken or minimal punishment received and villains are protected. The incidents reported are shoplifting and shop break-ins, drug usage at the allotments and cemetery and antisocial behaviour around High Street shops. On the latter it was noted that the installation of CCTV would make a difference. The Inspector said that the allotment problems are low level crime and received low priority. However, when asked for examples of those crimes which are regarded as high priority he could not answer and said the problems are allocated to officers on a day-to-day basis in response to information of crime and issues received.

Lord Bach said that the Data Protection Act did not allow the ‘naming and shaming’ of individuals and it is his view that it is better to keep young offenders out of the criminal justice system. He prefers to invest in services that support people to make permanent lifestyle changes, which take them out of the criminal justice system.

Lord Bach also noted that new types of crime have appeared in the last few years, which are driven by communication technology. These are cyber-crimes (online fraud) and child sexual exploitation, which require resources to combat effectively and protect vulnerable people. There is a particular role for PCSOs in helping and protecting vulnerable people. Lord Bach places a particular emphasis on fighting hate crime and dealing with domestic violence. There were direct questions on the demise of Barrow Neighbourhood Watch, where criticism was made regarding lack of support from local officers and lack of information on reported crimes. Here it was noted that a considerable amount of information is available on websites (see below) but it was pointed out that not all villagers are online and this is not a good substitute for the monthly Neighbourhood Watch leaflet.

Personally, I am not convinced that collecting and uploading crime incidents to a website makes a significant contribution to crime prevention and crime fighting, but Lord Bach said the police are required to do this.

Alan Willcocks