This week, the Home Secretary has summoned Chief Constables to London for another meeting about the response to violent crime, following further murders outside of our county. It is absolutely vital that we all work together – Police Chiefs, PCCs, the Home Office, the criminal justice system and other agencies to join up our efforts more effectively to tackle the root causes and take action against the perpetrators.
Kent is a safe place to live, work and visit, but that does not mean that we are without challenges. Our proximity to London, and the criminal activity being exported from the capital through organised crime and county lines, has a footprint here that Kent Police is tackling. There are issues with our continental borders, with immigration crime and human trafficking.
Arguments are playing out in the media as to which actions are responsible for this, including the impact of cuts to budgets and Police numbers. Personally, I never backed budget reductions. And if there is analysis that shows there is or isn’t a link, then it should be published. But the most important thing people will want to hear is what the response is going to be – whether it be extra resources for the Police which are much needed, more powers or a stricter criminal justice system.
And to bring in the politics – I see myself as a traditional law and order Tory. One who backs the Police, wants to see more of them and out on the streets, as well both effective punishment and rehabilitation. That’s why since my election in 2016, I’ve been doing everything I can to put that into practice. Here in Kent, there is a substantial amount of work that is going on already to prevent, engage, enforce and rehabilitate, when it comes to violence and gangs. We are recruiting more Police Officers than any other Force in the country I believe – going back to 96% of the strength we had when numbers started falling in 2009.
Here’s a summary of what I’ve been doing as the Police and Crime Commissioner:
- The Police and Crime Plan has “tackle abuse, exploitation and violence” set as a priority for the Chief Constable, and he reports back to me quarterly on Kent Police’s performance in this area
- Working with the Home Office and St Giles Trust to fund talks in schools in the east of the county, and caseworkers to work with young people to extract them from a life of criminality and gang activity
- Funding interventions through Refocus in the north of the county, working with young people to help them get their lives on track and away from crime
- Supporting talks by Reform, Restore, Respect in schools in the west of the county to highlight the risks attached to gangs and violence, and the consequences for their lives
- Backing the Police cadets, a substantial number of whom have been selected to take part (around 40%) to prevent them from getting involved in criminality, or giving them a chance to build confidence and self esteem
- Set up the Violence Reduction Challenge, which has brought together all of the statutory agencies in the county with local charities to discuss and plan further interventions to prevent, engage and rehabilitate
- Continued to protect funding for youth offending teams and drug and alcohol action teams
- Boosted funding for community safety partnerships by 10% so that they can offer more responses locally, which they are doing through Restore, Reform, Respect, Excelsior, St Giles Trust and others. You can read more about this here: http://matthewscott.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Copy-of-Knife-Gang-Crime-Funding.xlsx
- Through my victims fund, provided counselling and support for victims of violent crime in Kent
- Funding diversionary work by Youth Resilience CIC, Thanet Community Development Trust, Folkestone Youth Project, Tables Turned and the Pipeline Youth Initiative
Working together with Kent Police, the Chief Constable and I have also been doing the following.
- Investing in 450 more Police Officers by 2020, which will include more visible policing and greater capacity for investigations
- Supporting Operation Sceptre – the national Policing campaign to target known carriers, provide knife amnesty bins and undertake targeted campaigns
- Setting up Youth Engagement roles – 20 PCSOs who work with schools and young people on prevention, engagement and education
- The Chief Constable’s Control Strategy recognises violence as a operational priority and has also put together a serious violence strategy
- Supporting Operation Jump, which is an Ashford Police led project which has seen knife crime talks in all schools and Cadets giving out leaflets in town centres
- Using the extra Police Officers, the Chief Constable has set up a Crime Squad of Constables and Detectives to target violent and persistent offenders
- Set up Operation Raptor teams, who are Officers dedicated to tackling gangs and county lines across the county
- The Chief Constable’s Missing Child and Exploitation Team has seen a vast reduction in the amount of time that some children have been going missing (64%) and engaging with them to reduce the risk of exploitation
There is still some more work to do. I am reassured following my meeting with him yesterday that the Deputy Chief Constable is refreshing the Force’s approach to knife crime, to ensure that it remains effective given the challenges we face, and that Kent Police continues to bear down on the most violent. Recommendations from my Violence Reduction Challenge will also be published soon.
You can find out more about what Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners are doing on this issue nationally here: http://matthewscott.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/tackling-violence.pdf
You can listen to my interview on Radio Kent on this matter at the 1:49:40 mark here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p070xjh3
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