Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner.  
Commissioner's Office: 01707 806100
Police & Crime Commissioner Embraces Volunteering
It’s National Volunteers Week and what better way to celebrate than to showcase the valuable role volunteers play in keeping Hertfordshire such a safe place.  An award ceremony on Thursday (9th June) formally recognises our volunteers’ incredible contribution.
 
In my Police & Crime Plan, Everybody’s Business, I pledge to grow and expand volunteering opportunities but recognise that, for some, a full time job may stifle their ability to take part so I am spearheading ‘Employer Supported Policing’ to enable more people to get involved.
 
The challenge for PCCs has been opening up volunteering opportunities to all individuals, even those with full-time work commitments, but who still wish to play their part in maintaining a safe community. Nationally, the government’s plans around volunteering may see a new workplace entitlement for all large companies and public services to give their employees the right to three days of paid leave. This will go some way to supporting this gap, but is still far from being formalised and embedded across the country.
 
In Hertfordshire, we have been at the forefront of leading a campaign to ask employers to act now by spearheading the ‘Employer Supported Policing Scheme’. This puts policies in place to work with small, medium and large employers across the county to give their employees paid leave, sometimes up to a week a year, to become full warranted volunteer police officers by joining Hertfordshire Constabulary as a Special Constable. It gives employees flexibility to get involved at a level that is suitable for them, in order to meet individual organisation’s needs.
 
Since going live in late 2015, six businesses in Hertfordshire have responded and give their employees time off to volunteer, recognising the skills and experience which are beneficial to an employer and to Hertfordshire Constabulary. This includes national businesses, such as Mothercare, local business, McMullen and Sons, and Broxbourne Borough Council. For many employers, Employer Supported Policing makes good business sense, as they reap the benefits from all those who undertake high-quality police training on a range of aspects of the law, health and safety and first aid. These employees also bring personal qualities into the workplace, including an ability to deal with and take charge of difficult and challenging situations; confidence and assertiveness; and an ability to work under pressure.
 
The benefits to policing are also clear - enhancing and augmenting the Constabulary’s capacity, capability and resilience in tackling all types of crime in a variety of challenging situations; and being able to use each individual’s skills and experience to benefit the policing family and provide valuable insights to inform and support strategy and operational practice.
The recent national Specials Conference in April showed that there is much to be gained by recruiting Special Constables from industries, particularly those relating to technology, who can help fulfil key areas of needs in relation to e-crime. In Hertfordshire, those industry skills are already starting to show significant benefits for the force where a Special Constable, who is an IT specialist by day, took part in a house raid and was able to recover critical information for an investigation by locating data that was hidden on a suspect’s hard drive.
 
There is also much to be gained for the individual from being a Special Constable through the Employer Supported Policing Scheme. Take Myles Cole-Ganney, who is a project surveyor from BAM Construct UK in Hemel Hempstead by day and a Special Sergeant in Hertfordshire by night. Following the Commissioner’s pledge to give longer-serving Special Constables access to a response driving course, Myles, who has been a serving Special Constable for six years, approached his employer to seek paid leave to attend a two-week police response driving course. BAM Construct was flexible with their working arrangements, granting Myles a week’s paid leave and time off when required to attend the course.
 
Myles comments, “I really enjoy the experience I have gained from being a Special in Hertfordshire. While it is completely different from my day job, there are a vast range of skills, like decision making and leadership, which overlap both roles. It is great that BAM have supported me to go on the response driving course. Being the first of two Specials in Hertfordshire to receive this training further strengthens the ways I can help the community - and it is excellent for my own development.”
 
You can read the full article on Police Inight here.
 
David Lloyd
Police & Crime Commissioner
 
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Outlook for a second term
Firstly, I would like to thank everybody who voted in the police and crime commissioner elections in May – whether they voted for me or not. When I took my formal oath of office in 2012, I promised to serve all of the people of Hertfordshire equally and I intend to do just that, again, for my second term.
Twice the number of people turned out to vote in 2016 compared to the very first PCC elections almost four years ago, so it heartening to know that more people than ever are aware of this important role and recognise what can be achieved.

Over the coming months I will be seeking to deliver my manifesto promises but my tenure is about evolution, not revolution.  We already have a high performing value-for-money police force that is, by and large, trusted and respected by in the communities it serves. It is a county with low crime, despite its proximity to the capital.  I have made great efforts to preserve the very backbone of policing – the county’s neighbourhood teams – I have ensured that there is consistent, compassionate and practical support for victims of crime with the establishment of the Beacon Victim Care Centre, and I have ensured the Constabulary has invested in tackling domestic abuse and the growing scourge of cybercrime. 

So, the years ahead are about building on these strong foundations and developing partnerships, so that all organisations involved in community safety and criminal justice play their part – not just the police. I want victims to remain at the heart of all we do and I want to ensure I continue to reflect the views and concerns of the citizens and businesses in Hertfordshire.

One important focus for me is police transparency. The final outcome of the Hillsborough tragedy has really brought to light the utmost importance of honesty and openness in policing. When things go wrong, all forces need to look carefully at what they have done historically and learn from it. , although I think tThe public do recognise that the today’s police today are fair and ethical, with very few ‘bad apples’ whoand they understand that those who fail to meet the high standards expected are will be dealt with robustly when standards expected are not met.  I very much welcome the fact that police misconduct hearings now take place in public and believe that this will help to increase public confidence in policing.

Another aim is to increaseing the capacity and capability of the support and help provided to victims of crime in Hertfordshire, which will include expanding the remit of Beacon, and I want to see police, CPS, the prison, probation services and courts in the county working even more closely.
Finally, I will try to find ways of ensuring the duty of care that we all have towards our most vulnerable is rigorously enforced. As an example I want to ensure that vulnerable elderly people stop receiving hundreds of items of junk mail every week, by working proactively with Royal Mail.  I believe that a duty of care for victims and witnesses across criminal justice agencies needs a national standard and will work towards this.

I look forward to the months and years ahead in which we all work together for an even safer Hertfordshire.
 
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April message

I was pleased to be able to launch a brand new service for victims of crime in Hertfordshire recently. Beacon – the Hertfordshire Victim Care Centre – went live on 1st April and is an innovative new one-stop-shop for victims who want support or information relating to their crime. The service offers a complete ‘wrap-around’ provision for victims with enhanced services now offered to victims who have suffered more serious crimes or are vulnerable or who have been a victim more than once.

The new arrangements see Victim Support and the Constabulary’s Victim Service Team operating out of a single hub. A range of services are now available under one roof, from simply practical help, such as changing locks following a break in, through to information about their crime investigation or emotional support. Importantly, this service will be available free to all victims, including those who have decided not to report the matter to police or who have changed their mind about needing support and choose to make contact in the weeks or months after the incident.

The change follows responsibility for commissioning victim services in Hertfordshire moving from the government to my office. I took this opportunity to reshape the arrangements based on what victims the county have told me they want and to give those who have been strongly affected by their experiences the best possible chance of coping and recovering from their ordeal.

Victims who report crimes to police will automatically be contacted by the centre however those who have not reported the matter or who would like to access information and support in their own time can access services via the new Beacon website www.hertfordshirebeacon.org or through the hotline 0300 011 55 55 which is open daily from 7am to 10pm. Victims of fraud in the county whose crimes are reported to the national agency Action Fraud will not be contacted automatically however they too can access support services by contacting Beacon direct.

Improving customer care is high on my list of priorities so I was also pleased to see the Constabulary recently roll out an appointment-booking system to more parts of the county. Scheduled appointments enable members of the public to arrange a face-to-face meeting with a police officer to discuss a particular policing or crime issue.

Following a successful trial in Dacorum and Stevenage boroughs, the service is now also available in Hertsmere and Welwyn Hatfield with more districts and boroughs likely to follow throughout 2015. The change means appointments made by prior arrangement are much less likely to be postponed or cancelled because of unforeseen operational commitments or emergencies. This is something I have been pressing for and I look forward to satisfaction levels among members of the public improve.

Recently I also launched a drive to recruit more volunteers for the county’s Independent Custody Visiting Scheme. Supporting and encouraging volunteering opportunities in Hertfordshire has always been a key part of my vision for reducing crime and promoting community safety in the county. With this in mind, Independent Custody Visitors, or ICVs, are volunteers who play a vital role in ensuring that police cells are safe places and that the welfare and rights of those kept in them are maintained.

These people must have good observational and thinking skills, strong ethical principles and be comfortable challenging authority if required. If you would like to give some of your time for the benefit of the community, I would urge you to consider becoming an ICV. For more information please visit my website www.hertscommissioner.org/independent-custody-visiting-hertfordshire, or email commissioner@Herts.pnn.police.uk or telephone the Commissioner’s office on 01707 806100.

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Beacon Launches

This week I am delighted to launch a new service for victims of crime in Hertfordshire called ‘Beacon – Hertfordshire’s Victim Care Centre’.
 

Over 40,000 people across the county report a crime to the police each year and for around one fifth of them, the crime can have a serious impact on them, or their families.
 

I set up the new service primarily to support these people through what can be a harrowing and difficult time. But the Beacon is also there to support other victims, including those who have not reported their crime to the police. I believe that everyone who has been unfortunate to become a victim of crime deserves all the advice, help and support they need.
 

For many victims, the impact may be practical and short-lived, merely a minor inconvenience, but others find themselves having to contend with the emotional effects of crime. For those subject to the most serious violent and sexual crimes, the effects can include distress, hardship, a life-changing injury or even bereavement.
 

Research has shown that victims struggling to deal with the impact of the most serious offences, or those who are repeatedly the victims of crimes, too often have not received the support they need. This is why it is so important that we have a very clear idea of our commitment to victims and why we must do better to target support to those who need it most.
 

I don’t want any Hertfordshire resident, who has been a victim of crime, to sit there feeling helpless, unable to move past what has happened to them and not knowing where to turn for support.
 

So, I have commissioned a bespoke service from Victim Support that helps victims first to cope with the immediate impact of crime and, subsequently, to recover from the harm they have experienced.
 

Hertfordshire’s Victim Care Centre is a multi-agency, co-located, wrap-around service based in the county that provides a single point gateway for victims of crime in Hertfordshire.  It is staffed by highly trained and dedicated professionals from Hertfordshire Constabulary and Victim Support. It is open seven days a week 7am – 10pm and accessible by phone on 0300 011 55 55. Advice and support is also available on line www.hertfordshirebeacon.org  
 

The word ‘beacon’ has a number of positive associations for me and I hope for victims - a signaling or guiding device that emits light, a source of guidance or inspiration, to serve or shine as a beacon. It underpins the principles of the Victim Care Centre to support victims of crime to cope and recover from their ordeal. I also hope it will suggest to victims that it is a safe place to come to if they do not wish to report a crime.
 

We have also adopted a blue ribbon for raising awareness of victims’ rights.  It is already widely used in the USA and Australia to symbolise victims’ rights and serves as a reminder that there are national guidelines, that become law later in the year, setting out a code of practice for support to victims of crime that we must adhere to.
 

Extensive consultation including, our own on-going Victims’ Voice survey, has highlighted that victims want to understand exactly what happens after they report a crime, they want to be updated on the investigation progress, to receive practical and emotional support when required and have a single point of access.
 

So, the new service encompasses what we must provide, by law, and much more - victims will receive help as and when they need it. Our approach recognises the importance of ensuring that practical and emotional support is on hand immediately after the crime has been committed and that victims’ needs change over time.
 

All victims of crime are contacted and assessed by the police Victim Service Team. Where needed, Victim Support then provides a complete wrap-around service to help victims to cope and recover. Crucially, the Victim Support team will give confidential guidance and advice, even if someone doesn’t want to report the crime to the police. They also have direct access to Hertfordshire’s Mental Health services, Social Care Access Team and the Hertfordshire Home Security Service to refer people, as required.


The team is also able to refer victims to other service providers such as Mind, Women’s Centres and the Citizens Advice Bureau.
 

All in all a service that, rightly, gives victims the care and support they need - and deserve.


This article first appeared in the Speaker's Corner column of the Comet newspaper.

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Budget investment
It’s not long now before we all receive notification of how much we’ll be paying for police, fire and other local services through the coming year’s council tax bill.

I think I can safely assume that it is an unwelcome sight for most of us. But I believe there is good news in there, as unlikely as it may sound.  

For starters, the part you will pay for policing in the county is not going up.

If you read my article in the Gazette in January, you’ll remember that I had plans to freeze the policing element of the council tax bill. These plans have now been finalised and the freeze is now official.

Since I was elected to represent you as your Police and Crime Commissioner I have not raised this tax at all.

This is excellent value for money for a good-performing police force that keeps crime low in Hertfordshire and keeps you and your family safe.
But just because I’ve frozen the precept, don’t think 2015 is all about police cuts in this county.

Some Commissioners around the country are currently faced with steep council tax hikes in order to pay for more police officers.

Here in Hertfordshire the situation is different. Thanks to prudent financial planning in recent years, I can freeze the council tax bill again and yet still make sure there is enough in the kitty so we can invest in the Constabulary to make it better still.

Over the coming year we should be able to invest in 170 new police officers, to strengthen the Force in new areas as well as replace leaving or retiring officers.

We plan to spend more than £600,000 establishing a new Safeguarding Command within the Constabulary, which will focus on protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society, including children and the victims of domestic abuse.

As a result nine new police officers and 11 police staff will be dedicated to tackling sickening crimes such as the sexual exploitation of children.

You’ll know the importance of investigating these kinds of offences thanks to news reports from Rochdale and Rotherham in recent years.

In response to the growing threats of human trafficking and “cybercrime”, more than £350,000 will be spent on the new Hertfordshire Cyber and Financial Investigation Unit.

Cyber-crime is the name given to a wide range of offences from online fraud to harassment through social media and 11 new police officers – as well as more police staff – will be deployed to take on this threat.

A further investment in the Force’s criminal justice department will help bring to justice more wanted criminals who live outside our borders but who have committed crimes within our county.

And here in Dacorum we will be putting three full time police officers into HMP The Mount in Bovingdon.

The Mount has recently been designated as a “resettlement prison” which means it will be preparing prisoners for life on the outside.

The aim is to cut re-offending rates through better supervision of offenders when they are released, even if they have only had short custodial sentences.

The officers will be working with the recently-reconfigured probation services in the county and gathering intelligence about offenders before they leave prison.

In total, these add up to more than £1.1million-worth of investments in your police force – but they won’t cost you a penny more.

This article first appeared in the Speaker's Corner column of the Hemel Gazette.
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Good value for policing
The shocking terrorist attacks that have occurred in Paris recently have been disturbing in the extreme.

You may have also noted, like me, that three police officers were killed during the course of these incidents.

No doubt the terrorists would have killed more given the opportunity.

Then last week police in various European countries took action against suspected extremists living inside their borders. Again some news reports suggest at least one of these suspected terror plots was to attack police.

It seems that murdering police officers – whose job it is to protect the community – is fair game for these extremists, who may or may not be linked.

While this is a poignant reminder of the risks involved in being a police officer, it is also a reminder of the value of protecting front line policing so that it has the capacity to respond to new threats.

Thankfully facing a direct terrorist threat is not a regular event for police officers in Hertfordshire and I hope it stays that way.

I am glad to say that our county’s diverse community lives in relative harmony – although we must continue to be vigilant against all forms of extremism.
However there is still a wide range of challenging and dangerous situations police officers are called on to deal with.

Protecting front line policing in Hertfordshire, particularly local policing, in this challenging economic climate has been a priority of mine since I was elected.
In order to do this it is essential that the Constabulary’s finances are kept order; after all we cannot use resources we do not have.

One of my responsibilities as Police and Crime Commissioner is to set the police budget in Hertfordshire and the part of the council tax bill that goes towards the cost of policing here.

I am glad to say that being prudent and responsible with Constabulary finances over recent years, along with collaboration work with neighbouring forces in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, means we have made significant savings.

These savings mean not only can we protect local and front line policing in the county but we can invest in it too.

The healthy state of the Force’s reserves means we can buffer against the impact of future reductions in government funding and even fund increased police officer recruitment.

Here in Hertfordshire we are in a better position to protect front line, local policing than in many other areas of the UK.

Furthermore our savings and efficiencies mean we can invest without increased cost to the taxpayer.

While many other Police and Crime Commissioners around the country looking to raise their council tax precepts in order to maintain current levels of policing, here in Hertfordshire I am planning to freeze it yet again. 

So if you live in an average Band D property, the cost of policing to you through your council tax bill will be £147.82 for the whole year – the same amount you have paid since 2010.

My hope is that by sensible management of the budget we can protect the police’s front line, so that Hertfordshire remains a safe place to live and work.

All this without costing you a penny more.

This article first appeared in the Speaker's Corner column of the Hemel Gazette.
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A time to reflect on the year
Christmas is nearly upon us and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Gazette readers a happy and safe festive season. I’d also ask that you continue to  look out for each other’s safety too.

Traditionally there is a spike in certain types of crime at this time of year – drink driving and domestic-related abuse are examples that come to mind.
Despite it being 50 years since the first drink drive road safety advert, sadly every December police still arrest motorists who’ve had at least one too many and then try to drive.

My advice is don’t risk it – the cost of a taxi fare is never worth losing your licence for, nor going to prison for killing someone in a serious accident.
Just as concerning to me is the rise in the number domestic abuse-related reports at Christmas.

There are many reasons for this increase: again alcohol, increased financial pressures and more time spent in each other’s company as well as the stress of the Christmas season.

This time last year I wrote in the pages of the Gazette that, if there was one type of crime that I would really like to make a difference on in 2014, it was domestic abuse.

So I am particularly pleased to be able to report back to you now the progress we have made in this area.

We now have four more domestic abuse advisors (IDVAs) working in Hertfordshire, including one based at Watford General Hospital – one of the main to serve this area.

IDVAs are independent of police and social services and offer support and advice to victims of abuse within the home. The funding for these new IDVAs came from my office.

I have also paid for a £50,000 review this year of services for the victims of domestic abuse in Hertfordshire by the national charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse. I look forward to their final report back in January.

This report is the first of its kind in Hertfordshire and is an extensive assessment of both the need and current provision for supporting victims across all public services.

I believe this is the first step in reshaping those provisions so that we can best protect and best support victims in the future.

In November, Hertfordshire Constabulary also launched a domestic abuse campaign spreading the word about how to recognise it and how to report it – a campaign which I wholeheartedly endorsed.

And most recently, I have awarded £3,000 to The Open Toy Box scheme to pay for play therapy for children and young people in Dacorum and St Albans who have suffered from or witnessed domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is particularly pernicious as it is something that can affect families and partners from all backgrounds and from all positions in society, regardless of income, age or gender.

Victims suffer behind closed doors and are often scared and unwilling to proceed with criminal prosecutions.

In the long term I hope we can change attitudes towards domestic abuse so that victims can recognise abusive behaviour and are confident in coming forward and reporting it to the authorities.

But in the short term we are also providing more support where it is needed, so that victims are safer and better protected.

My hope is that in the Christmases to come, fewer and fewer people will have to put up with violence or other forms of abuse and maybe even lives will be saved as a result.

Ultimately this work is about safeguarding women, children and men too from abuse and violence in the place where they should be safest – inside their own homes.

This article first appeared in the Speaker's Corner column of the Hemel Gazette.
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Mayors
There is a new breed of politician planned for the North of England.

Powerful new mayors have been proposed by the Government that will provide the leadership required to regenerate its big cities.
The vision is to forge a new “Northern Powerhouse” that will compete with London and the South East as a hub for attracting business, wealth and enterprise. 

But while there are merits to having mayors, many of the benefits and joined-up-thinking that this kind of system should produce are already coming to Dacorum, without the upheaval of an entirely new system.

Once installed, these new elected mayors will govern over the entire metropolitan areas, such as Greater Manchester, with sweeping powers over policing, public transport, strategic planning and so on.

They will take over the responsibility for the overall governance of the local police force from their current Police and Crime Commissioners.

Of course the concept of a powerful mayor is not entirely new either. Mayors of this kind are commonplace in big North American cities and London has Boris.

Hertfordshire has the population of a big city – more than a million people – and the business, innovation and economy of a big city. In that respect, we already live in a Southern Powerhouse if you like, although there are of course pockets of deprivation.

But what about our public services? Crime is generally low here, unlike some big cities, but if we look at the proposal for a ‘public service quarter’ in Hemel, we can see how your local authorities are consolidating their resources together in a way that a mayor might attempt to do if he or she was running Hertfordshire.

This proposal would see Dacorum Borough Council, the library and the police station all under one roof.

Hemel Police Station’s front desk was closed last year simply because not enough people used it to make it worthwhile.

The money spent on it was better spent on helping keep Bobbies on the beat, where they are most needed, rather than manning a desk that no-one used.
But once you put several services under one roof the economics change and it might be that it is viable to have one front desk taking queries for a range of public services.

If a member of the public needs further help from a police officer or a housing officer or anyone else, this can be arranged at the desk too. But in the meantime, the police officer can be carrying out other duties. 

This is really the latest development of one of the founding principles of the New Town where the main public services were positioned within easy reach of each other in a ‘civic centre’.

The new building will make this concept fit for the 21st Century.

What the democratic structures are that power these changes is secondary.

Whether it is a mayor making these changes or a borough council, county council and myself with the police working together, I suspect it doesn’t really matter to most members of the public. 

But what they do care about is that when they need to use public services, they get the service they expect, and that when they pay their council tax, they get the value for money they expect.

This article first appeared in the Speaker's Corner column of the Hemel Gazette.
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I have launched the biggest domestic abuse review in Herts ever
Last week I spent time with thousands of other Conservatives at a party conference in Birmingham.

One of the areas that I spoke and attended events about was tackling domestic abuse. Gazette readers may well remember me writing in this newspaper about it at the beginning of the year. I said it was a top priority of mine for 2014 and beyond. In Birmingham I spoke about my decision to fund projects that will help protect victims of violence or other abuse in the home now and in the years to come.

Domestic abuse occurs in all sectors of society, among people from all backgrounds. It happens within the home, within the family and within relationships. Men, women and children can all be victims and perpetrators.

These crimes often go unreported for many reasons – perhaps the saddest is that some simply don’t realise that they are victims at all and just accept it as part of normal life.

I spoke about the importance of raising awareness at a recent launch of Hertfordshire Constabulary’s #trustinus social media campaign, which aims to build confidence between victims and the authorities and educate people about how to recognise abuse.

I have been using my victims’ commissioning budget to support victims in this area. The budget is money used for supporting victims of crime and is being transferred from Central Government to my office. Out of this pot I recently agreed to fund a pilot scheme that has seen a new independent domestic abuse adviser working at Watford General Hospital – one of the main hospitals serving this area.

This “IDVA” as they are known provides support to victims of abuse who, as you might expect, may find themselves at hospital. They also train hospital staff to recognise and support victims better themselves. After just a couple of months, I understand the scheme is already having some positive results.

Perhaps even more significant in the long-term though is that I have recently commissioned an independent review of services to domestic abuse victims in Hertfordshire.

This is the biggest review of its kind ever seen in the county and my hope is that it will help us better understand the support available to victims from the many different organisations operating here.

Despite all the good work the public and voluntary sectors are doing with victims, they don’t necessarily have the time to look at the bigger picture, or the influence to make big changes. With the investment in this review, we will have a starting point for better co-ordinating and better targeting our support, hopefully also making it more efficient so it can stretch further.

If victims are better served, then they are better protected.

These projects may not be flashy or eye-catching schemes aimed at grabbing headlines. But they are initiatives directed at those who need it most and who sadly all too often go under the radar.

And at a time when some are questioning the value of Police and Crime Commissioners, I say, look past the negative press and see projects like these and their value.

Commissioners are not only standing up for victims all over the country, but they are using their role to look at the wider picture around crime and getting things done.

This article first appeared in the Speakers Corner of the Hemel Gazette, 8th October 2014.
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Constant effort to stop a 'Rotherham' in Herts
Anyone watching the news throughout August might be forgiven for thinking the world was on the brink of disaster.

We have seen worrying reports from Syria and Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia, and a deadly Ebola outbreak in western Africa.

In many respects it has been a dreadful month with many grave events to reflect on – but not just in terms of world news.

Here in Hemel, I was saddened to learn of the death of 16-year-old Fazan Ahmed, who died following a hit and run incident in Jupiter Drive.

While as Commissioner I am not involved in investigating the incident, through my role I was made aware of this tremendously sad event and my thoughts go out to his family and loved ones at this time.

I was also given cause to reflect when a report published last week revealed the scale and extent of the child exploitation that existed in Rotherham for many years.

Worse still were the failures by police and the local council to protect those children that were victims of the abuse.

While I do not believe there to be any equivalent problem here in Hertfordshire, we must never become complacent.

It requires a constant effort to re-examine and re-evaluate whether police and its partner agencies are doing their best for the vulnerable people they come into contact with and victims in general.

And we shouldn’t also forget the bigger picture either. As children’s charities will point out: while these gangs have perpetrated heinous acts against children, the fact is that most abuse against children goes on within families and behind the closed doors of their own home.

From day one as Police and Crime Commissioner, I have spoken of the importance of police working closely together with all its partners in Hertfordshire – and of course with the community itself.

Only by working well together can we untangle complex and sensitive issues such as these, and with the trust of the communities we serve.

My position provides a unique strategic oversight of everything that contributes to crime and all of the powers we have to prevent it.

This combined with my experience as a Hertfordshire County Councillor means I can better pull together police, children’s services and other groups in the interests of the victim.

I can examine what works well and what does not work so well and I can help share this with other areas so that victims across the county can benefit.

There are plenty of examples around the county of effective partnership working between police, councils, housing associations, probation and others.

But the basic principle that drives me is that I truly believe that crime prevention and community safety is everybody’s business.

This is not an attempt to defend or lessen the responsibility attached to any police officer who has failed in their duty.

It is clear that police and professionals involved in safeguarding vulnerable people must properly investigate where there is risk of abuse.

But others such as family members, friends and neighbours also have a role.

If you have concerns about inappropriate behaviour at work, in your street or even in your own home, you should report them and not just hope they will go away.

This article first appeared in the Speakers Corner of the Hemel Gazette, 3rd September 2014.
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Summer reflections
Summer is here, the schools have broken up and, so far, we’ve had some promising weather. [David Lloyd]

I like to use this natural break in the year as a time to take stock, reflect and consider the big issues for policing in the years ahead.

On this note I was heartened by a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies last week which said that Hertfordshire police has made good progress in meeting the difficult financial challenge facing every police force in the country.

I believe that being on a sound financial footing is a key priority because, as any self-respecting Police and Crime Commissioner knows, the one group that would have to bail out a force that doesn’t balance its books is the taxpayer.

I am also pleased that in Hertfordshire we have managed to reach this position but without compromising on the policing effort in the county.

To this aim, safe-guarding front line policing is a key priority of mine. And in order to protect the front line in the future, including the neighbourhood teams that I know so many residents value, it is necessary for savings to be made.

This is where our agreement, which the Chief Constable Andy Bliss and I signed, to collaborate with two other police forces – Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire – is vital.

By collaborating back office functions of the three forces, we can both ensure that Hertfordshire Constabulary is efficient as well as effective.

However, this is not the only area where we can join forces with other organisations for the benefit of the public. We need to be looking to join together with other local services in Hertfordshire.

As regular Speaker’s Corner readers will know, my motto is that crime and policing is, and should be, everybody’s business.

For me, that includes other public services as well. They should be doing their bit to protect the local community from crime – in tandem with the police of course. Some people will have heard that I am leading national work on how we bring together public services.

By working together we can make sure we have a public service where the right person is doing the right job at the right time.

In the final analysis of how well the police service is being run, I know that many people will look at the crime figures and make their judgement from there.

As is often the case though, the stats do not tell the whole story.

I’ve been quoted already this year as saying that we may see recorded crime go up by as much as 10 per cent in Hertfordshire.

There are numerous reasons for this, the biggest of which is that Forces up and down the country are reviewing how they record crime. The likely effect of this is an upsurge in crime figures following a long decline in the numbers of crimes over many years.

A good example of this is new rules about how fly-tipping crimes are recorded.

Police work with local authorities such as Dacorum Borough Council to tackle this issue, which is anti-social and a blight on communities.

However the changes mean that the incidents that were once dealt with by the council, often with assistance from the police, are now to be recorded as crimes.

On first inspection, this would look like a spike in the number of offences being reported when in actual fact it is an accounting change, more of interest to statisticians than to victims.

I welcome these changes in recording methods, because accurate figures are key to developing a strategic response to the issues affecting the county. Ultimately, this will lead to an improvement to the service that the police provide the public.

This year is a recalibration year for the crime figures, and I say to those who do not want to look past them, to look instead at the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
This is totally independent of the police and yet has generally shown the numbers of crimes dropping in the UK for many years.

This article first appeared in the Speakers Corner of the Hemel Gazette, 30th June 2014.
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Crime figures may rise but I am not complacent
When I was chairman of Hertfordshire Police Authority, I believed that the most important aspect of the job was my responsibility for policing. 

Now we’re into a new era. The old police authorities have been swept away and in their place are Police and Crime Commissioners, like myself, who are directly accountable to the electorate.

With the introduction of the new “police and crime” role, I realise how wrong I had been – the most important aspect is not “policing” but “crime”.

Of course the two are intrinsically related and part of my role is to hold Hertfordshire’s Chief Constable to account over how the county is policed.

But I believe policing in Hertfordshire is generally excellent, so that leaves me to consider my thoughts about crime which I recently discussed in my annual lecture at the University of Hertfordshire.

The truth is there is no neat definition that sums up what is ‘a crime’, and none I have found give sufficient priority to the victim. 

What is or is not a crime changes by where you are and what era you live in.

What is a breach of the law in one country may not be in another – anyone who has considered a holiday to a country where Islam is the predominant religion will likely have given consideration to any local laws about the drinking of alcohol.

Moreover, as social attitudes change, the criminal law can be introduced or abolished. Take the use of seatbelts – once it was optional in the UK, now it is mandatory.

After a long period of seeing crime figures going down, both in Dacorum and across Hertfordshire, this year we may be seeing this trend change with crime levels tipping slightly upwards.

This may be in part because the Force has been changing the way reports of crimes are dealt with following concerns about the accuracy of crime recording by police nationally.

It may also be because victims of certain “hidden” or “silent” crime types, such as sexual or domestic abuse, have been reluctant to report these but are now coming forward in increased numbers.

I welcome increase where these are the case particularly if it means that the police’s response is being more focussed around the victim rather than the crime.

Knowing that reports are being dealt with sympathetically and recorded correctly is important for public confidence in policing and important to the victim as well.

These factors may explain some of the rises and it may be that, after a period of readjustment, we see crime levels plateau in Dacorum and Hertfordshire rather than continuing to rise.

Be reassured though, whether going up or going down, the numbers involved are very small and you still very unlikely to become a victim in this county.

Be also reassured that I am not complacent about crime.
 
As I have said before in this column, the Chief Constable Andy Bliss assures me is the best way to combat crime is to protect local policing – which I have done.

I also note with great pleasure that the Force is looking to recruit some 80 Police Community Support Officers.

Hertfordshire’s PCSOs do a superb job and I believe they are essential to the crime fighting effort and one of the reasons why we have seen anti-social behaviour in Hertfordshire drop by more than a quarter in the past year.

The recruitment is required to replace PCSOs who have left, many of whom have gone on to become police officers.

So I would urge anyone thinking about becoming a PCSO to consider a quote by Harvard lecturer Marshall Ganz that I reflected on in my aforementioned lecture: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”
 
This article first appeared in the Speakers Corner of the Hemel Gazette, 25th June 2014.
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