THE NEW CHIEF CONSTABLE of Thames Valley Police has called on businesses to help restore faith and trust in the force.
Jason Hogg, who took up his new position at the helm of Thames Valley Police – the UK’s largest non-metropolitan force –-in April, has laid out his plans to businesspeople from across the city.
The force is committed to focus on serving victims, fighting crime and building trust and confidence in the police. Mr Hogg intends to double the number of neighbourhood police officers, with greater support from the public.
“Policing is too important to be left to the police alone” he said. “We need to maximise the eyes and ears in the local community to tackle crime.”
- Main picture (top): Jason Hogg (second from right) with Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership chair Nicholas Mann (right), Melanie Beck, CEO of dinner sponsor MyMiltonKeynes Business Improvement District and MKBLP director Simon deMaid.
Thames Valley Police has a strong relationship with Milton Keynes and its citizens are already working together to tackle crime and reoffending. Speaking at a business dinner hosted by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership, Mr Hogg highlighted the impact of the Knife Angel, the 27ft sculpture made from 100,000 bladed weapons, which spent time outside Stadium MK in December last year.
He tackled questions from MKBLP members including Catriona Morris, chair of trustees at safety education charity the Safety Centre on Kiln Farm, about how to sustain initiatives to educate children about the risks and consequences relating to knife crime.
“Within 90 minutes of a young person below the age of 17 being arrested with a knife in Milton Keynes there is an intervention,” Mr Hogg said. “This is testament to the power of communities and groups working to achieve the same goal.”
A Police Community Support Officer working directly with schools to help deter future crime can be highly effective, he added. But Mr Hogg also admitted the resources issues Thames Valley Police is facing, which is deterring this positive action.
“Right now we have 140 vacancies and while we do not have a problem recruiting good-quality people, retaining them is a challenge. PCSOs are some of the lowest-paid individuals in the force and this is something that I am looking.”
Mr Hogg intends to work with other Chief Constables across the South East to lobby the government. A suite of measures are already in place to counteract issues surrounding retention. “Resources are stretched, we have refocused our limited resources and response times are not where I would like them to be,” he said.
However, the drive to create a diverse workforce and harness a new generation of talent is paying dividends. By July this year, 70 per cent of Thames Valley Police’s response teams will have less than two years’ service, 44pc of its recent recruits are women and 18pc recruited last year are from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
Mr Hogg credited the work of the force’s Positive Action Engagement Team who are generating a diverse pipeline of candidates.
Calls to the police are answered, on average, in 2.5 minutes . However, Thames Valley Police is set to be the first UK force to use robotic automation to handle call demand and is already encouraging the public to report crime online in the first instance.
The recent series of incidents, particularly involving Metropolitan Police officers, has damaged trust in the police, Mr Hogg said. “We are separate from the MET, but trust in the police is lower than it has been in years, and we all have to take responsibility,” he told his audience. I will work tirelessly to build trust and a high professional standard and we are making progress.”
The dinner at Hliday Inn Central Milton Keynes was sponsored by MyMiltonKeynes Business Improvement District. Its chief executive Melanie Beck led questions on several issues facing BID levy payers – notably, more frequent cases of of shoplifting during lunch hours, the high number of car crimes and safety of employees in the city centre.
Mr Hogg said he continues to press for more resources and called on businesses to share prevention messages to minimise the risk of car crime, including not leaving valuables in view, and to ensure that all crimes are reported.
“We need to build trust in our local communities and show that the police are on your side,” Mr Hogg said. “We will be there in your time of need, we may not always get it right and when we do not, we will apologise.”