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7 September, 2016

Your voice counts

Blog post for Harrogate Advertiser - September 2016

Here in Harrogate we are lucky to be in one of the safest towns in England.  Despite having centres of high urban crime in our neighbouring counties, our police force helps us to ‘be safe, feel safe’ with around 87 per cent of us feeling secure living in North Yorkshire.  That is very good news, and largely down to a lot of hard work by our local police service.

But the positive headlines don’t necessarily reflect the reality for everyone and even Harrogate has its own challenges.  Often I hear about road safety and anti-social behaviour, and most recently local businesses and residents very concerned about the problems caused by street drinking in the town centre.   That’s why I am 100 per cent committed to ensuring our police force delivers a truly responsive service that meets the needs and aspirations of the whole community.

From next month, I will be consulting with residents across the county to refresh the police and crime plan for North Yorkshire.  I want to know what your priorities are.  Your feedback will shape the new plan which sets out the approach to community safety and policing for the next four years.  There will be both local plans, including for the Harrogate Borough, but also priorities which the whole county share, such as keeping vulnerable people safe and supporting victims of crime.

More than 2,000 people contributed the current plan, which I published in December 2014.  Your feedback was fundamental, and you pinpointed the following priorities:

  • Protecting vulnerable people
  • Cutting crime and anti-social behaviour
  • Focusing on prevention and early intervention
  • Improving victim care

But identifying these priorities was not, and is not, a paper exercise. It is something that helps both myself and the force make decisions about where money and time is spent and leads to real action on the ground.  In Harrogate for example, people said that road safety was a key concern and this year has seen Community Speed Watch being rolled out across the borough with a scheme in Pannal and Burn Bridge now live.  If you would be interesting in setting up a scheme in your town or village email CommunitySpeedWatch@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk.  I was able to announce this year that the force would be increasing the number of safety camera vehicles from six to twelve, and up from three when I first came into the job in 2012.

At a North Yorkshire level, the Chief Constable and I recently announced a £3m strategy to improve the protection of vulnerable people, including an increase in officer numbers from 1,343 to 1,400 and 200 PCSOs, up from 183.  Harrogate will of course feel the benefit of that investment as much as anywhere else.

From your feedback, I also know anti-social behaviour has a real impact on people’s quality of life. I mentioned street drinking at the beginning of the column, and with me and my team attending a number of public meetings about the issue I know it is a cause of great concern, particularly to businesses and those living in the town centre.  I am happy to report that a Public Space Protection Order is now in operation across the town centre, and gives enforcement officers new powers to ask a person to stop drinking and ‘surrender’ their alcohol.

My hope is that it will make a real difference to stop the behaviour of the few spoiling things for the many.

The point I want to make is that all this work has been done in direct response to feedback from residents. So your views really do count.  You shape policing in Harrogate, and beyond.

Next month, I will be carrying out an online survey followed by a series of public events across the area, including Harrogate, to specifically hear what matters to people here. I would encourage everyone to speak up and have their say. With limited budgets, there are often difficult decisions to be made. Your opinions, experiences and feedback will help set the course for policing in North Yorkshire until 2020.