Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) / Operational Policing
· Current position of levels of criminality in Cheltenham with a particular focus on anti-social behaviour and organised crime.
· How is success measured and how are they performing against it in a Cheltenham context?
Police and Crime Commissioner, Chris Nelson
Chief Inspector Gav Morgan, Gloucestershire Police
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) commented that he had received and responded to eight written questions, adding that it would be useful to have received these more in advance to allow more time to answer. The Chair said that the committee is testing out a new system of sending questions in advance and thanked him for his feedback.
He highlighted the following issues:
- getting out of special measures imposed by HM Inspectorate, in record time and faster than any other force. This was significant, as the force had had to work hard to address six inadequate ratings;
- the one outstanding issue, concerning the control room and answer times for 999 and 101 calls, will hopefully be sorted by January;
- the adoption of a new enhanced operating model (EOM) in June this year. It is not yet up the full strength but will result in all sorts of improvements across the force – better arrest rates, more investigations, crimes dealt within half the time, response to Grade 2 emergencies 30% faster. It is a continuous improvement model, and won’t be fully working until next June, but there is a lot to feel good about;
- as an example, the solved rate of crime in Cheltenham and Tewkesbury is over 30% in neighbourhood policing, the area of most concern to residents, including anti-social behaviour and household burglaries. This is a great credit to the local teams and a major achievement - the best in the county - and compares very favourably with an average solved crime rate of 10-15% around the country.
Chief Inspector Gav Morgan (GM) confirmed that the EOM has meant a restructure of how daily business is carried out, and while it has taken a while to find the right level and resulted in a few struggles for neighbourhood policing, with the help of the PCC and other departments, it is beginning to show real results, including a 38% detection rate in Cheltenham last month.
He confirmed that:
- the terms of reference of the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) have been reviewed with Tracey Birkinshaw (Director of Community and Economic Development), resulting in more focussed, multi-agency, problem-solving meetings feeding into the CSP, and a sub-group led by Inspector Mike Yates working with partners and stakeholders. This will progress in the new year;
- there has been a lot more work around plain clothes policing, as a result of concerns around the night-time economy and the vulnerability of young females. With the help of Safer Streets funding, an operation is being developed to help target the perpetrators intent on causing harm;
- work has been carried out around the ‘Clear, Hold, Build’ initiative with the council, in The Moors and St Peter’s areas, with a second meeting scheduled to start developing and pushing that forward;
- a lot of work on bike thefts is underway, with Safer Streets funding used for better signage and QR codes resulting in better recovery of bikes. Marking bikes makes it easier to return them to their owners.
Members thanked CN and GM for doing a great job in difficult circumstances.
A Member asked about the ONS crime survey of England and Wales, which includes reported and unreported crime to give the most accurate and authoritative national crime figures. He had been unable to find the figures for Gloucestershire, and with reported wait times of up to six hours on 101 calls, felt that this must result in many crimes going unrecorded.
GM had not seen the report, and could not provide these figures for Gloucestershire or comment on the trend in crime overall in the county based on such data. He said the solved rate only relates to reported crime, and in particular neighbourhood crime. As part of the new operating model, neighbourhood teams are listening to communities to learn what causes the issues; they are taking ownership of individual investigations and solving crimes more quickly.
The Member was particularly worried about 101 calls, particularly for hate crime and other sorts of crime which were less likely to be reported, and felt it would be good to know the full figures of both reported and unreported crime, as a benchmark against which Gloucestershire can measure itself. CN confirmed that the crime survey for England and Wales was the gold standard, and people will talk to the ONS about crimes which they won’t necessarily report to the police. While providing an accurate national representation, it is problematic to extract county-level data from the survey, which is why he has initiated a ‘Perceptions of Crime’ survey, focussed on Gloucestershire. The first one has just been carried out, and after a few years, it will be possible to cross reference with the ONS survey and see any trends.
Regarding 101 calls, he conceded that there is still some work to do, but made the following points:
- the Force Control Room (FCR) handles 999 and 101 calls, and now responds to 999 calls in 6-7 seconds (national target is 10 seconds), which is three times better than a year ago. The target for a response to 101 calls is two minutes, and although it is currently twice that, significant improvements are being made;
- 20 new call handlers are joining the FCR in January, which will improve matters;
- a call-back facility is going to be added to the automatic answer machine - which gives different options but sometimes keeps people waiting a very long time in busy periods. Callers can leave their number and be called back when wait times are shorter;
- an ASB portal was introduced a couple of months ago for people to report ASB, and this seems to be going well;
- a digital desk will be introduced to the FCR in the new year, offering live chats on the website which is currently constrained by the national model and not the easiest to use. He feels that talking to a human will be a much better way to engage with the public, but made the point that by making it easier to report crimes on 101, the crime figures will go up. ASB is under-recorded by 50%, male violence to females by 80%, as well as rural crime, shop lifting, scams and fraud – many of these crimes are currently unreported;
- various procedures are in place to make it easier to report crime and to cope with the subsequent surge in calls, including a triage group and the offer of overtime for officers – with the added bonus that they will bring huge experience and be able to advise other police officers and call handlers who aren’t as familiar with the crime world as warranted officers.
A Member spoke about a recent outbreak of ASB in Warden Hill, and residents’ concern about the length of time it took to report it on 101 or the website. Some of the offences – such as speeding vehicles and e-bikes and scooters being ridden dangerously on pavements – are gone in seconds, and the length of time it takes to report them via 101 makes the information useless. He understood improvements were underway and the force operates within the national framework, but the service wasn’t good enough at the moment.
CN said he recognises the problem with 101 response times, despite adding 30% resource at the beginning of the year, and made the following points in response:
- retention and replacement of staff has been an issue – a lot of call-handlers move to other areas of police staffing or become officers or PCRs themselves. Courses for 20 new recruits rather than 10 have been introduced, and with the additional 20 starting in January, answering times should improve;
- there has been a big national increase in 999 calls this year – the post-Covid world is more needy and vulnerable, there are more people with complex mental health needs, and issues such truancy, self-harm and suicide on the increase. This places additional pressure on the force control room;
- a switchboard will be introduced so that calls are answered more quickly initially; the caller may have another wait depending on who they need to speak to, but hopefully it will result in greater encouragement to stay on the line. The current abandonment rate on 101 calls is 30-40%; it should be 10-15%, and will hopefully be driven down after January;
- regarding Warden Hill, it’s clear that difficulties in reporting ASB discourage people from trying – there are not many actual reports despite a significant number of concerned residents – but with the introduction of improved systems and the 38% solved crime rates, the trajectory of improvement is good.
GM added the following comments:
- the problem with e-scooters has escalated in the last year or so, and people should be encouraged to reach out to their neighbourhood policing team or PCSO as soon as possible if they cannot get through on 101. If there are no figures to indicate a hotspot, resources won’t be directed to where the problem is, and even reporting the following day will enable information to be gathered and hotspots identified;
- regarding dangerous driving and e-scooters, an operation is being put together with extra measures to tackle the problem, including plain clothes patrols and smart water;
- the road policing team is getting an uplift of over 10 constables and three sergeants already recruited to start in the new year, giving greater capacity to patrol hotspot areas;
- officers are also going into schools to educate young people, and plain clothes operations are targeting individuals.
CN added that a mail drop will shortly be sent to every house in the county, with clear, concise, easy-to-read advice on the best way to contact the police. He also advised that £1m will be spent next year on reinforcing neighbourhood policing, with an additional 25-30 PCSO officers, working in tight teams to tackle ASB hotspots, maybe for 3-4 months at a time to really sort the problem out. This will be more effective than spreading the additional officers across the county, give people the reassurance of seeing more officers in uniform, and hopefully reduce long-term demand by preventing crime from happening in the first place.
The Chair thanked CN and GM for their updates, and looked forward to seeing the outcomes next year.
- OPCC Annual Report_2023, item 7. PDF 10 MB
- Gloucestershire_Policing_Update, item 7. PDF 213 KB
- OS_Member_Q&A_ChInspGlosConstabulary, item 7. PDF 382 KB
- Member Questions with responses - PCC, item 7. PDF 527 KB