- What is your ambition for rural policing in Wiltshire and Swindon?
Rural crime has grown in recent years involving types of crime that were rarely seen a few years ago. I have been a member of the Police and Crime Panel since 2012 and Vice-Chair for the last 4 years so I have been very supportive of the establishment of specialist rural crime and burglary teams. We are very much a rural county and neither teams yet have the resources that are needed to be fully effective so I would aim to increase the size of the rural crime team as soon as possible and also to use the expertise that they have built to ensure that other officers are trained in understanding the issues and tackling rural crime. We need to build intelligence around many aspects of rural crime in a similar way that we have been building intelligence on “County Lines” working closely with neighbouring forces to share knowledge and resources to make ourselves far more effective.
Prevention is better than cure so we also need to be better at the provision of advice to farmers about how they can avoid being victims of rural crimes.
- What do you feel are the main challenges and opportunities for rural policing in Wiltshire and Swindon, and how will you look to support farming businesses?
The first challenge is lack of resources which I will cover in my answer to the 3rd question. One of the problems of rural policing is the isolation of many farms and the area that needs to be covered. Farms can be targeted in so many different ways and farmers have difficulty in knowing what may be happening at any one time on their farms because they are spread across a wide area. We need to find ways to help farms and farmers become more secure from criminals.
We need to identify trends early and be more pro-active in moving our resources around to effectively target the criminals behind rural crime. Many victims of crime often don’t report crimes because they feel that the police can’t or won’t help them so we have to gain their trust to ensure that they report crimes and enable the police to build intelligence to be able to target those responsible.
- What will your first 100 days as the Wiltshire and Swindon PCC look like?
My first objective will be to start the fight to get a fairer funding formula for Wiltshire and Swindon. Despite every MP for our PCC area being Conservative, a Conservative PCC being in place for 2 terms, both councils for Wiltshire and Swindon being Conservative controlled and Conservative controlled governments for over 10 years no progress has been achieved on this and I will seek to remedy this. I’m not going to promise I can achieve that in 100 days but I can show government that I mean business and that I’m not going to go away or be silenced like our Conservative MP’s and councillors have. Without the right level of funding from Government we will always be short of the resources we need to support our residents and businesses and have an effective police force for Wiltshire.
I will want to meet representatives of a number of key stake holders in that 100 days – small businesses being one and the farming community being another – to ensure that their voices are more effectively heard by the PCC and on the Police and Crime Panel.
Our Police Force needs to change with the times and use new techniques and technologies to improve their efficiency and effectiveness – I shall start by asking some key questions that will help to establish where the improvements may be made, if necessary by consulting other forces that have been able to achieve higher effectiveness than Wiltshire and work with our leaders to bring those ideas and techniques to our force.
I shall look to appoint a senior staff lead to support victims and ensure that we are committing as many of the new police officers we are recruiting to replace those lost through Conservative cuts to the front line, many in community policing roles.
I shall set objectives for change and improvement that can be worked on over the first year. If we start some of these initiatives early we will benefit more over the 4 year term of the PCC.
- How will you ensure crimes in rural areas are consistently reported and acted upon?
As I said earlier, many victims of crime often don’t report crimes because they feel that the police can’t or won’t help them so we have to gain their trust to ensure that they report crimes and enable the police to build intelligence to be able to target those responsible. We need to ensure that they feel that reporting every crime will bring about improvements that will help to reduce rural crime in the longer term. They won’t report crime if they don’t feel the police will take it seriously and pro-actively find the perpetrators. I will expect information on rural crimes reported and solved and expect the police teams to identify ways to tackle rural crime in the short, medium and longer term – all of which will need different approaches and solutions.
- How will you prove your effectiveness as PCC and demonstrate best use of public money to Wiltshire and Swindon residents?
I have been a small businessman all my life. I have had to work hard to earn every penny honestly so I understand the importance of not wasting money. I shall expect every department to identify ways in which they can improve their effectiveness, ways in which they can improve their efficiency and ways in which they can save costs. Resources saved will be used to target areas where more resource is needed – such as rural crime.
Open and transparent reporting of data on crimes reported and outcomes will show how effective the force is and that will also reflect how well the PCC is doing their job. I will be visible and meet as many groups, representatives and individuals as I can across the County and use my deputy to help me with this. By listening to feedback and using that to push for improvements to be made and then measuring outcomes from improvements, Wiltshire and Swindon residents will see how effective I am as PCC and that should show in the data reported – transparency is key!
- How will you tackle fly-tipping and hare coursing in Wiltshire and Swindon?
To some degree cuts made to council services especially in relation to waste facilities pushes the problem elsewhere. In my ward in Swindon, it has led to waste being dumped in back alleys and we need the local councils to investigate and work pro-actively to prevent this. The same has almost certainly happened in the country-side with increases in fly-tipping and especially fly-tipping of hazardous waste to avoid charges at waste facilities. I shall engage, where necessary with councils to persuade them not to make changes or introduce cuts/increase disposal charges etc. that leads to increases in fly-tipping. There is a balance that needs to be struck.
Some of the keys to tackling hare coursing are intelligence – ensuring farmers and the public know what to look for, how to report it and ensuring that police resources can react in a timely manner. We also need to ensure that offenders, and especially repeat offenders are prosecuted for the cruelty they cause and the criminal damage they do to farm land and crops. I will investigate whether drone and other technology can help identify those responsible and bring perpetrators to justice.
- What are your aspirations for active rural police officer numbers and how will that aspiration be delivered?
As I said in the answers to question 1 and 3, some increases in the rural crime team are necessary anyway and can be done from the increased police officers that are already planned. Training other officers in the issues and techniques to tackle rural crime will give us far more resources to use when we need them so we can call on police officers who may be close by dealing with other crimes to enable the force to be more responsive to incidents that occur. Tacking the funding formula for Wiltshire Police will give us the best opportunity to add resources to our police teams for the benefit of all our residents including those in rural areas.