Chief Constable Michelle Skeer to give members the annual presentation from the Constabulary.
The Chief Constable wanted to take this opportunity to appraise members of the challenges being faced by Cumbria Constabulary, along with some significant improvements made and which had yielded impressive results.
Financial challenges were always there, the changing profile of the police workload meant that resources had to be distributed commensurate with the emerging crime trends. Crime patterns were changing, for example Cybercrime had increased by 44% and now made up 5% of all crime.
Demand in serious crime had increased, and the Constabulary routinely investigated offences of modern day slavery, child sexual exploitation, historical sexual abuse and county lines all of which were very complex and difficult to deal with.
However, although demand had increased, national crime and investigations data, up to June 2019, showed that Cumbria had the third lowest level of all recorded crimes in England and Wales, was the second lowest level for drug offences, fifth lowest level for violence against the person, and seventh lowest for sex offences.
The Chief outlined proposals for Cumbria as result of Operation Uplift, the Government’s national commitment of an extra 20,000 police officers. The anticipated extra 100 officers would take the establishment to the highest number of officers seen for a long time.
The Chief Constable then gave some examples of recent investigations, including Operation Nile, a county lines drug supply operation in North Cumbria, and Operation Rumble, which secured convictions for nine defendants who all received between 4 and 7 years imprisonment each for their varying roles in the conspiracy to steal connected to ATM attacks.
However, crime although more complex and increasing resource intensive only represented about 20% of incidents reported to the police. The largest category of incidents reported to the police involve public safety issues – concerns for welfare, missing persons and dealing with vulnerable individuals with mental health issues. As a Force Cumbria experienced a high volume of demand to protect vulnerable people.
Over 3500 people were reported missing, nearly 55% of those classed as high risk, which indicates an immediate response is required. No crime had been committed but until the missing person was located and the circumstances ascertained no assumptions could be made. This behind the scenes action/resource was unseen by the public.
Cumbria had been graded as a good performing Force across all strands by HMICFRS. However, to keep people and communities safe the constabulary needed to work with partner agencies, something which was evidenced extremely well across the local focus hubs in the county across the three territorial policing areas.
The Chief Constable cited Egerton Court in Barrow which had seen a reduction of 83% in incidents reported to the police since the Hub had been established. There had been over 520 referrals to the hubs since January 2018, 38% of those relating to antisocial behaviour and 20% relating to vulnerable people. The hubs drive local partnership working and delivered partnership support therefore assisting in reducing demand.
The Chief Constable finished by mentioning the police maintaining a relationship with the public, through confidence in the ability to respond to the public, prevent and deter crime, protect vulnerable people and conduct investigations. This was done through strong relationships with partner agencies and she was particularly grateful for the strong relationships that existed between the Police and the County Council.
The Chair then opened up the floor to questions.
Mr Airey asked, against the backdrop of increased rural crime, particularly quad bike thefts in our region, necessitating the mobilisation of Op Lantern that the Chief Constable join him in recognising the efforts of almost 50 Sedbergh families who came together in a Farm Watch group to work alongside Cumbria Police at very short notice. They reduced quad thefts in Sedbergh, Cautley, Dent, Garsdale, Killington, Barbon, Howgill and Firbank to zero over the past 8 weeks, whilst thefts continued all around them.
However, Mr Airey was concerned to hear that 80% of the group had now withdrawn, citing the failure of Cumbria Police to engage with them in a meaningful way and listen to their concerns.
Mr Airey asked the Chief Constable to meet with him and the group to look at lessons learned.
The Chief Constable acknowledged that volunteers were invaluable in reducing this type of crime. However, she asked that Mr Airey speak to her outside of the meeting about this specific query.
Mr Bingham asked for assurances that Cumbria would have sufficient automatic number plate recognition technology in rural communities. He represented one of the electoral divisions affected by County lines.
The Chief Constable responded to say that Cumbria had both fixed and also mobile automatic number recognition technology. Mobile devices could be redeployed to problem areas and all patrol cars had this technology in their vehicles.
Ms Hanson said that during the recent general election campaign many Parliamentary candidates had received death threats. She asked for reassurances that there were no issues in Cumbria and that Cumbria Constabulary took this seriously for all elections.
The Chief Constable reassured everyone that there were no specific issues in Cumbria but that this was taken seriously by Cumbria Constabulary and regular reports were fed back to central Government on this.
Mrs Williamson had concerns about the increase in anti-social behaviour in her division. The Chief Constable suggested the local member contacts colleagues in the local hub for help/advice.
Lord Liddle arrived at the meeting at this point.
Mr Shirley had concerns that due to the increase in serious crime, resources for crimes such as burglary would be seen as a lesser priority. However, this type of crime could have a devastating effect on the victims. He asked what reassurance the Chief Constable could give that these crimes were taken seriously.
The Chief Constable reassured members that all reported crime was investigated.
Mr Hawkins was a firm supporter of the Police Community Support Officers. He had a good working relationship with the PCSO in his area, and so did the residents. However, in recent times, with these officers no longer visible, he wondered if this was one of the reasons for the increase in anti-social behaviour.
The Chief Constable said PCSOs were very important to the Constabulary, and were a direct link into the local hubs. There was no intention to stop this. She encouraged all members to make contact with officers in the local hubs.
The Chair thanked the Chief Constable for her informative presentation.