To invite the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Constabulary, Nick Dean, to address the Council.
The Chairman welcomed Mr N Dean, Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Constabulary who had been invited to address the Council. Mr Dean thanked Members for the invite and began his presentation by drawing Members attention to the issue of austerity facing all Police forces nationally. Mr Dean reported upon the changing nature of crime since he had joined the Police 26 years ago, using new digital technology to detect offenders and criminals going forward, whilst making effective use of resources.
Since joining Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Mr Dean outlined to Members that he had taken the opportunity to go out and listen to the community to gain a greater understanding of the challenges in order to respond to the issues. Members noted that the demand on his services remained high as demonstrated by an increase of 6.3% of 999 calls over the past year to 350K per annum.
Members were appraised of the good working relationship with other forces across the Eastern Region and collaborative working with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire to tackle the counter terrorism threat and high end crime. In noting that there had been an increase in localised crime, such as burglaries across the area, that had directly affected the quality of life of those that the crime had been committed against, Mr Dean reported that this had led to the integration of a Mental Health Team in the Control Room that had seen an increase from 3.5 to 5% in demand.
In referring to the reduction in budgets and pressures on front line policing, Members noted that the direct approach of continuing to work with communities had continued to evolve through PCSOs, community speed watch groups and neighbourhood watch schemes. Mr Dean reported that they had been working in conjunction with the District Council and other authorities across the area to set priorities for the organisation with the Police and Crime Commissioner to meet the challenges going forward to safeguard the vulnerable and engage with those that had been victims of crime, whilst not losing sight of the primary role of the tackling prevention and detection of crime.
Arising from a question from Councillor P L R Gaskin regarding targeted resources to tackle recent incidents of commercial van break-ins and increase in knife crime, Mr Dean reported that in relation to the latter there had been an influx across county lines that had been exploiting the young and vulnerable, specifically in relation to an increase in the population of St Neots and a reported daily increase of 5½ regular crimes per day to 7 per day over the past year and this increase had also been reflected across the county but still remained low. With this in mind, it was reported that they had been proactively working with young people through schools, colleges and youth leaders to educate about the dangers of knife crime.
In relation to a question raised by Councillor T D Alban on his gratitude for the Rural Crime Team and reassurances that this level of support would continue, Mr Dean reported that he had actively been out with the Team and committed to maintaining engagement with the rural communities, this had been something that he had been tasked with in his previous role in Norfolk. He undertook to pass back the positive comments to the Team and reflected upon an approach that had been adopted in the southern area of Cambridgeshire to maintain communication on any such issues through social media.
Councillor S Bywater raised a question in relation to the issue raised previously by Mr Dean on protection of the young and vulnerable and it was explained that advances had been made in safeguarding these individuals and steps had been taken to secure partnership working with an ongoing commitment to tackle these issues.
In relation to a question from Councillor T D Sanderson on the financial pressures, Mr Dean explained that his priority was to make best use of the resources going forward through partnership working and use of new technology, as well as looking at innovative new ideas.
Councillor Mrs S J Conboy referred to the positive community support that had been provided by Police Officers and questioned how District Councillors could help Town and Parish Councils to support this approach, whereby Mr Dean referred to the low level crime and effect on the quality of life and explained that they were committed to neighbourhood policing and undertook to explore and enhance the intelligence gathering information that already existed through sharing with Town and Parish Councils and other community groups.
Arising from a question from Councillor D M Tysoe on utilisation of the tools of CCTV to prevent and detect crime, Mr Dean explained that when CCTV was first introduced it acted as a good mechanism to catch many offenders, but now although CCTV continued to provide extensive coverage across the area the deterrent aspect had diminished. Members were informed of the enhancements in the digital footprint of CCTV and Mr Dean referred to technologies being trialled elsewhere following a visit to South Wales Police where facial recognition had been developed, but had to be balanced against human rights and the holding of such data. CCTV was tightly governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, whereby local authorities had signed up to ensure safeguards were in place and it was an accepted part of society going forward.
In support of the previous Members comments, Councillor G J Bull reiterated the Council’s support of the Police and in line with the issues raised previously surrounding the fear of crime, particularly amongst the vulnerable in communities, he questioned how the District Council could support. In response, Mr Dean explained that it was a balance between doing and sharing more, particularly with the celebrations of successes through social media that may have had a counter effect of feeding the fear of crime, but much of what was reacted to came direct from communities and this has helped reduce crime.
Arising from a question from Councillor Dr N Johnson on the problems associated with mental health and was keen to understand how the Police had dealt with such issues and audit of the challenges, whereupon Mr Dean reported that there had been enhanced training for all Officers, including additional support in the Control Room to address the increase in mental health calls and was an acknowledgement that in society the stigma of mental health had been removed giving people the confidence to come forward. It was widely accepted that all agencies had restrictions on their budgets and it was necessary to work together to understand the needs of the vulnerable in society.
Councillor P Kadewere raised a question in relation to an increase in kids in the Huntingdon North Ward and had been working with Officers and PCSOs and the availability of resources to continue to support issues that had arisen in this area, whereby Mr Dean explained that although there had been a reduction in funding there had still been an uplift in Officers and had been in negotiation after the recent Central Government settlement as to how to provide the best services for Cambridgeshire in the most effective way, through developing a role for neighbourhood policing and involving parishes and community groups in this model. It was noted that it was not possible to determine whether specific wards would benefit from an increase in policing, but would be balanced against the complexity and volume of crimes and commitment to put resources in the right place.