Surrey Police Neighbourhood Commander, Sarah Milligan, discusses local policing arrangements and community engagement.
Policing administration is always subject to change, probably more so in Surrey than other counties, due to its greater financial pressures.
In Elmbridge we have been kept up to date through regular presentations open to councillors and the general public. The most recent was given early this year by Police Neighbourhood Borough Commander Sarah Milligan, at a meeting of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The notes of that meeting, appended below, provide a clear picture of the present situation.
** To break up the text and to supplement readability we have included some sub paragraphing, any text in blue has been added by Hersham Life and does not form part of the official minutes.
Invitation to the Surrey Police Neighbourhood Commander, Sarah Milligan, to discuss local policing arrangements and engagement
Elmbridge Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee received an update from the Neighbourhood Commander, Sarah Milligan, in respect of local policing arrangements and engagement.
The Committee was pleased to note that there had been year on year reduction in vehicle crime and serious acquisitive crime. There had been an increase in total notifiable offences of just under 16%, attributed particularly to an increase in confidence from victims of domestic abuse to report incidents. Overall confidence in the service was at 93.9%, the highest in the Force and satisfaction levels for the way in which victims of crime were dealt with was at 80.2%, which was above the Force average. Some 50-60% of crimes affected vulnerable people in the community. Household burglaries were down by 24% and theft from cars had dropped 32%.
In respect of anti-social behaviour, an awareness week had been held to raise community awareness of issues around anti-social behaviour, including explaining which agencies, such as Mediation North Surrey and Victim Support could provide help and setting out the responsibilities of different partners to help resolve issues.
There had been some successes with anti-social behaviour and some work had been undertaken jointly with Paragon Housing to tackle some persistent incidences of anti-social behaviour being undertaken by certain families in Weybridge, Walton and West Molesey. Additionally, there had been 8 successful applications for Criminal Behaviour Orders which prevented offenders being verbally or physically abusive to anybody with the Borough.
The Neighbourhood Commander advised that with regard to Neighbourhood Policing, the work of the teams included dealing with a wider variety of crimes; responding to 999 calls; preparing court case papers; interviewing prisoners; and continuing to deal with long-term neighbourhood issues.
Surrey Police had undertaken a review of how best to deliver core policing services. The Policing in Your Neighbourhood Team had assessed demand against resource and with effect from April, 2016, a new policing model, ‘Policing in Your Neighbourhoods’ was being introduced. Teams would tackle chronic issues affecting local communities and work closely with partners to make communities safer, and the powers of Police and Community Safety Officers (PCSOs) would be reviewed to broaden the work that they could undertake. The new Teams, under the control of the Neighbourhood Commander, would be called Area Policing Teams and would respond to calls that required police attendance, undertake investigations and liaise with specialist officers. They would also support the smaller Safer Neighbourhood Teams. Members were advised that there would still be identifiable local contacts.
In terms of staffing for Elmbridge, as of April, the Neighbourhood Commander would be responsible for 93 police officers and staff. This would affect engagement and ways to undertake this would be reviewed. Social media would continue to be actively used and the ‘Active Citizens’ system would be updated to make it more user friendly. Larger, borough meetings would be introduced to provide a strategic overview and provide the opportunity for partner agencies to attend. The ‘Street Meet’ and ‘Meet the Beat’ sessions would continue. A review of the most effective ways to engage the community would be undertaken and in this regard views were sought from Members.
In response to this, a Member queried whether it would be possible for the Police to work in partnership with the ‘Let’s Talk Elmbridge’ community meetings and in response the Neighbourhood Commander indicated that this was something that she would explore further. Members commented that, whist they understood the implications of resourcing a number of meetings, local resident meetings and ‘hot spot’ meetings did actively engage the local community.
A Member commented that the local knowledge of the PCSOs was invaluable. In response the Neighbourhood Commander confirmed that this was recognised and that there would still be PCSOs dedicated to the Borough, but that they would no longer be dedicated to specific wards.
In respect of the new Team structure, a Member sought clarification as to the breakdown of back-office staff and Police Constables/PCSOs.
It was confirmed that all of the officers were frontline, with the breakdown as follows:
A Member queried the extent of cyber-crime and what was being undertaken to prevent and respond to instances of such crime. It was noted that the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office was leading on the tackling of cyber-crime through a specialist team as it was an area of growing concern.
A Member queried whether it would be possible to look at anti-social behaviour relating to cars obstructing pavements and people cycling on pavements, and it was confirmed that officers could deal with instances of obstruction and take enforcement action as appropriate.
Arising from a query, it was noted that historically, the north of the Borough was affected more widely by cross-border crime and it was confirmed that there was regular dialogue between relevant officers in Thames Valley and the Met to ensure an effective and co-ordinated response to such crime.
A Member queried the arrangements for the appropriate care of potential mental health patients in custody. In response, the Neighbourhood Commander confirmed that there had been a lot of work on this over the last year to ensure appropriate medical care arrangements were in place to deal with these vulnerable people.
The recent informal meeting arranged by Councillor Mary Sheldon, bringing together Neighbourhood Watch with local police officers, can pave the way to much closer liaison.
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