- To set out future aspirations and priorities for Kent Police
- Opportunity to have dialogue with parish councils around policing issues
The Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (Mr Matthew Scott) set out future aspirations and priorities for Kent Police and advised of a number of new initiatives planned to recruit additional officers.
Members were reminded that the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) was an elected representative who set policing priorities for the county; created a Police and Crime Plan in consultation with the public; held Kent Police to account and had overall responsibility for the policing budget, including setting the council tax precept for policing. In addition, services for victims of crime were commissioned and community safety projects funded. The overarching guiding principles of the Police and Crime Plan was safer communities, ensuring people got the right care from the right people; protection of vulnerable people; putting victims first and tackling all forms of abuse and exploitation.
Particular reference was made to initiatives supporting vulnerable people and one of Mr Scott’s priorities was to make sure that those with mental health issues who came into contact with the police had access to the right support. Funding had been allocated within the commissioning budget to enable schemes or projects directly related to this priority to be supported.
Future priorities were summarised and included continuing discussion and liaison with communities, parish councils and the Kent Association of Local Councils, with visible and accessible policing remaining the primary focus.
Particular reference was made to the financial challenges around the policing budget which had resulted in a £12 increase to the police element of Council Tax. However, this increase represented a significant commitment and investment in neighbourhood policing as £1 per month funded 200 additional police officers. This also enabled a further 80 call operators to be recruited to improve the 999 and 101 call handling. Government funding for local policing remained unchanged and Mr Scott would continue to press and lobby for increased funding.
There was a commitment to maintain and protect Police Community Support Officer (PCSOs) numbers at 300; increase the size of rural and road policing and maintain a visible police presence.
In-depth discussion followed on a range of issues as summarised below:
Speeding on rural roads: Wouldham Parish Council asked whether it was possible to undertake ‘speed traps’ to enforce speed limits in the village and change road priorities. Mr Scott reiterated that road safety remained a policing priority and that many organisations could offer assistance. Acting Chief Inspector Martin advised that many options were available to address speeding on rural roads and parish councils were encouraged to contact Kent Police direct to discuss the Speed Watch initiative.
On-line reporting: In response to a query raised by Aylesford Parish Council, Mr Scott confirmed that on-line reporting of some offences was currently being piloted. Unfortunately, it was not possible to upload attachments, such as photographs, at the current time but this would be introduced in the future. However, if photographs were available individuals could be contacted by officers for further information.
Police Community Support Officers: Burham Parish Council thanked Mr Scott for successfully getting PSCOs ‘powers’ to address certain issues.
Visible policing in communities: Snodland Town Council asked that local police officers consider patrolling side roads in communities to be more visible. Reference was made to incidents of anti-social behaviour at allotments and the difficulties in contacting 101 to report these offences. Acting Chief Inspector Martin asked that any local intelligence regarding anti-social behaviours be shared with local PCSOs to follow up. Police operations could then be considered for those areas or wards where problems had been identified.
Helping vulnerable people: Reference was made to the number of cases where police were offering support to vulnerable people in Accident and Emergency, especially those with mental health issues. It was observed that this reduced the number of visible police officers available to deal with crime. As this was recognised as a significant problem, Members asked what steps were being considered to alleviate this and whether there was a risk that the additional officers being recruited would be diverted away from policing to support vulnerable people.
Mr Scott referred to an initiative called Street Triage being piloted in Medway and which aimed to improve assistance to those in mental health crisis. This involved one mental health nurse supporting police officers to help people get into the right health based place of safety quicker by identifying what the issues were. There was potential for this pilot to be rolled out further across Kent.
In addition, it was noted that Mind based in Tonbridge operated a well-being café that offered support to vulnerable people.
Increase of pavement parking: Several parish councils expressed frustration at the increase of pavement parking which created obstructions for both pedestrians and motorists. Mr Scott recognised these frustrations and would encourage the Road Policing Unit to include guidance on considerate parking as part of their road safety campaign. Acting Chief Inspector Martin advised that local PCSOs were pro-actively tackling inconsiderate parking in their areas by speaking to individuals where possible. Referrals could also be made to the Road Policing Unit who could contact Kent County Council to see if it was possible for road traffic orders to be amended and double yellow lines introduced.
If the obstruction was in a dangerous place, such as a junction, and concerns were raised, Kent Police would look into the matter.
Investment in additional police officers: In response to a question raised regarding increased police visibility on streets as a result of the announced recruitment, Mr Scott confirmed that investment in 200 extra officers would mean more would be allocated to community policing. Demand on policing was significantly higher than in previous years and represented significant challenges when handling resources. It was reported that police officers were busier than in the past due in part to increased anti-social behaviour and support of those in a mental health crisis. However, Members were assured that Kent Police continued to investigate all crimes.
Community Police Volunteering Scheme: Kings Hill Parish Council asked for an update regarding the volunteering scheme for community policing and whether there were any volunteers from the Tonbridge and Malling area. In response, Mr Scott explained that volunteers would be available to provide 16 hours per week of visible policing and work with communities. The volunteers would be in addition to PCSOs. There had been a positive response and once the pilot scheme was implemented further details would be shared.
Attendance at parish council meetings: A lack of police attendance at some parish council meetings was reported. Acting Chief Inspector Martin reminded Members that police resources needed to be managed carefully and it was important to use officers to deal with service priorities. However, Members were assured that Kent Police would try and attend a parish meeting once a quarter and if it was not possible to attend in person due to ongoing operations, then a written report would be provided.
Neighbourhood Watch: Kent Police were supportive of local neighbourhood watch schemes and details of the local co-ordinator (David Spitter) were available on the following link:
Youth Education Officer: A Youth Education Officer was working with local schools to educate and improve relationships with young people. The Chairman suggested that Kent Police liaise with the Advisor Network which was an initiative that aimed to strengthen links between education and businesses for the benefit of young people.
In closing, Mr Scott advised that attending this type of forum and discussing issues with community representatives was beneficial. Parish councils were also encouraged to promote the fact that Kent Police was actively recruiting and there were good career opportunities for the right candidates.
The Chairman thanked Mr Scott for attending the meeting and participating in such a detailed discussion. An open invitation to attend a future meeting of the Parish Partnership Panel was also extended.