DERBYSHIRE’S Police and Crime Commissioner has revealed his plan of action for tackling crime in South Derbyshire after reflecting on his first 100 days in the post.
Alan Charles spoke to the Mail on the issues he has faced since being elected in November after coming into the position at a time of considerable upheaval for the county’s police force, which has seen cuts to both frontline staff and funding in recent times.
But despite having to tackle difficult subjects, he currently presides over a police force which is continuing to bring down crime.
Mr Charles revealed that crime rates in Derbyshire had fallen for a tenth successive year, down a further 16 per cent, but warned that criminals were still out there.
He has plans to reduce crime across the county.
He told the Mail: “It’s certainly a difficult role, without any doubt. I think everyone who went for the role appreciated that. A lot of work in the first two months has gone into drawing up the police and crime plan and the budget.
“That did include the council tax cut, and that’s not where we want to be. But the 20 per cent cut was imposed and if we didn’t do that we were going to lose another 20 or 30 police officers in Derbyshire, and people have made it clear they want to see more officers on our streets.”
Mr Charles stepped into the role of Police and Crime Commissioner at a time when police officer numbers are falling in the county, and he expressed his desire to halt that decline – but said dwindling government funding would continue to make that difficult.
He said: “If the Derbyshire public wants a good police service in the county, it costs to do that. Derbyshire Police are actually starting to look at how it can change the way it works with as little pain as possible. We’re ahead of the game.
“There are very few compulsory redundancies, but voluntary redundancies are still painful and have an impact on families and put more pressure on people still working in the service.
“We have lost 159 officers already over the last couple of years and I don’t think the public want to see that, so that’s something we’re trying to manage.”
But as Mr Charles faces the challenge of balancing job cuts and finances as the force comes under pressure over decreasing officer numbers, he can at least offer members of the public the comfort that becoming a victim of crime is less and less likely.
Mr Charles highlighted specific areas that the force is looking to target in an effort to further reduce crime, and called on supermarkets to work with them by considering altering the price of alcohol.
He said: “There are alcohol-related issues and supermarkets have a key role to play. We’re seeing people going out damaging their health on a Friday and Saturday by drinking themselves silly.
“There is quite clearly a lot of violence related to alcohol in our towns and cities such as criminal damage, and domestic violence is spurred on by alcohol.
“I’m not saying that is the reason for it, but it can spur it on. A lot of criminal activity is associated with it.
“But we can’t force Tesco or Sainsbury’s to come to our meetings – we can only do our best to encourage them.”
Mr Charles also expressed his want to change people’s perception of the police force – and that it is not purely down to the amount of officers that are seen on the street.
He said: “Crime is down by 16 per cent, which is the tenth successive year that crime is fallen, which is absolutely brilliant. However, crime is changing. It’s still out there, it hasn’t gone away, but now we’re seeing more people stealing from people’s bank accounts.
“Cyber crime is the biggest rising threat, not just in Derbyshire but in the world, with the abuse of children through child pornography going on in the privacy of homes.
“But we have officers working to try to catch these people, and while they may be in jeans and T-shirts and in front of a computer and the public won’t see these individuals very much, they are as important as frontline officers. It’s about changing people’s perceptions.”
Mr Charles also told of his intention to make himself known to the public. A report last week revealed that only one in 10 people were able to name their Police and Crime Commissioner. There is also a perceived a general apathy towards the role.
Mr Charles believes the election process could have been handled better and was allowed to slip under the radar of many members of the public.
He said: “An election in November – it has been recommended that should never happen again, and that has been said by a lot of candidates, and candidates must be allowed to send out literature to all voters. That was absolutely a key factor in the low voter turnout.
“But we can’t do it all in the first three months, especially with the pressure we’ve been under.
“Perhaps some people don’t know who their MP is and they’ve been around for hundreds of years. We’ve been around for a few weeks.
“It’s a great privilege for me to be the first Police and Crime Commissioner in Derbyshire and I want to work with the Chief Constable to make a service for Derbyshire residents that is of high quality and can keep communities safe.”