It is an honour to serve the residents of Kent as their Police and Crime Commissioner. As I reach the midpoint in my first term, as one of the second generation of PCCs, I have seen time and time again how we have been able to respond decisively and quickly to the challenges in our areas.
My Police and Crime Plan, which reflects residents’ priorities, has ensured that every community, whether urban, rural or coastal, receives the same level of focus. I’ve made it a goal for the Force to become more accessible, so they have introduced online crime reporting for those who do not always need to call. As the voice of victims within the criminal justice system, I have used my powers to commission services to provide more help to those in need and enable victims to hold offenders to account directly.
My drive for greater value for taxpayers’ money has enabled Kent Police to keep all 300 of its PCSO posts, maintaining an important link with all our towns and villages, and increase Officer numbers. Using funding from my Office, I am providing alternative places for people to go to seek extra help with their mental health and reduce the demand on Policing. I’m also investing in technology to make it easier for Officers and Staff to do their jobs and provide a better service to residents.
Kent Police is also performing better, as a result of the Chief Constable changing the way his Force operates. In every area it was inspected in, in both my first and second years in Office, Kent Police was judged as “good” or “outstanding” in every area. When it was discovered I had inherited a problem with the accuracy of the crime recording, action was taken promptly to turn it around, and if Kent Police was inspected again today, I am assured that it would be considered “good”. Officers and Staff deserve tremendous credit for these achievements.
There are some challenges that I am working on together with Kent Police and others. Issues of violent crime and gangs spreading out into our county from London is one example of a big challenge we face. I am setting up a Violence Reduction Challenge, which will include the public sector, charities, victims groups and others to better understand the problem and put measures in place to crack it. Kent Police will continue to use stop and search powers and have had some successes recently tackling offenders, but this is an issue that is wider than just Policing so we all need to do better together.
No-one can pretend that there hasn’t been a substantial change within our Police Forces. Officers are stretched. Crime and anti-social behaviour are down according to the crime survey for England and Wales, but people are coming forward to report more incidents that need investigating and issues such as mental health and welfare stretch Police Officers and Staff further. This is never something I have shied away from. But rather than complain about it, here in Kent I am actually doing something about it.
I inherited 3182 Police Officers when I was elected in 2016. By March 2019, if Kent Police meets the recruitment goal I have set, there will be 3452, a rise of 270. This will include an expanded local response, rural policing team and roads policing team. I’m also recruiting more Police Staff. There will be more going to work in the Police control room to answer 999 and 101 calls, for example, to improve the service.
Please do not underestimate how hard it was to come up with the funding for this increase in numbers in Kent. I don’t have billions in other pots to move around, like the Mayor of London does. This has been done through local efforts to save money and with the help and overwhelming support of council taxpayer. Not by blaming others and absolving myself of my duty to act.
When I first arrived at Kent Police Headquarters on 12 May 2016, I kept my visitor’s pass. I did so as a reminder that no politician has a right to assume they have a job for life, nor should they take their time in office for granted. I remain a visitor here in between elections, helping to protect and serve the people of Kent. I will continue to be proactive and undertake visits and public engagements so that I continue to listen and reflect the needs of my county.
Two years done, two years to go. We are going from strength to strength, and there is still more to come.