Lancashire crime commissioner on "unprecedented" number of calls to the police, why anti-social behaviour will never be completely eradicated and the pressure caused by the people who have forgotten how to have a sensible night out
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That was the pledge from the county’s police and crime commissioner, Andrew Snowden, as he marked his first year in office (watch his full interview in the player above).
While he said that the ever-shifting demand for resources across the county meant that he was unable to commit to the exact numbers that would be deployed in different districts, he said that his aim was to ensure that each of Lancashire’s 14 council areas had dedicated neighbourhood and response teams – so that the “proactive” work of local officers was not lost within the need to attend urgent call-outs.
He also told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the “unprecedented “ level of demand being faced by Lancashire Police was partly due to the fact that some people had forgotten, during the pandemic, how to have a sensible night out without causing trouble.
Mr. Snowden said that 999 and 101 calls to the force now “regularly” exceeded 2,000 a day – with 80 percent of calls to the non-emergency number not even being about issues that the police could or should be dealing with.
Lancashire is expected to have recruited 509 new police officers by next March – the county’s share of the 20,000 being taken on nationwide to replace the same number which have been cut over the last decade.
That would still leave Lancashire almost 250 officers down on its workforce tally from 2010. But Mr. Snowden said that he was using an increase in the police’s share of council tax this year to recruit an extra 50-60 personnel, something which had also been done in previous years.
He said that Lancashire residents could therefore expect to see over 600 new officers added to the constabulary’s ranks – with the remaining shortfall, compared to historical levels, being a reflection of the fact that policing had changed in the intervening years.
“If you look at our policing budget, [it] is tens of millions higher than it was in 2010.
“Some of the roles that we need to do to keep people safe from online fraud and hacking [and] from online paedophiles…need police staff [recruits], not police officer roles – and therefore this isn’t all about just the police officer numbers.
“It’s about how much money do we have overall to deal with all the different crime types that we have and [how we] keep people safe – whether it be children online, through to walking the beat to prevent anti-social behaviour.”
Mr. Snowden said that he had front loaded recruitment of neighbourhood officers into the first phase of the recruitment campaign to ensure that their effects could be felt on the streets sooner. The LDRS understands that the next intake of officers – 120 of them – will come in July, with further tranches in October 2022 and January 2023.
The commissioner added that his pledge to end the “hybrid model” of the same officers being responsible for the neighbourhood policing and response activity was being rolled out across the county – with Fylde and Rossendale already having dedicated neighbourhood teams back in place and progress being made towards that end in RIbble Valley.
He said that he was also looking to address the current anomaly whereby South Ribble’s response team is actually based in neighbouring Chorley.
“If you have 999 calls coming in, the proactive work goes by the side, because you’ve got to manage that risk, harm and threat,” said Mr. Snowden, who acknowledged that the balance between the two was not where he would like it to be, but was where it needed to be due to current demand.
He also warned that there would never come a time when police could “patrol areas for the sake of patrolling areas – it will always be based on where there is crimianl activity reported”.
The former county councillor – who represented the Hoghton with Wheelton divsion between 2017 and 2021 – said that he would never make promises to be able to eradicate anti-social behaviour, because people would either disbelieve him – or be disappointed when he inevitably failed. But he said that the force was aware of the source of trouble in places like Chorley town centre and was working to solve the problem.
“Anti-social behaviour is often cyclic. It’s [caused by] new kids on the block [or] drug dealers who have set up in the area.
“My role is holding the police to account for having a co-ordinated, robust and effective response to that – and that is something I hold the chief constable to account for on a weekly basis.
“Part of my role is also about being a convening power to bring the different people together to solve anti-social behaviour. You are never going to purely enforce your way out of [it].
“If the kids have nowhere else to go or anything else to do, then you’ll be putting them in the back of a van every night. If they’ve got real issues at home that [mean] they don’t want to be at home…then putting them in the back of a van doesn’t change the traumatic things that are happening at home.”
Notwithstanding the causes of anti-social behaviour, Mr. Snowden said that serious incidents needed to be dealt with “robustly”, with the involvement of parents and schools, to ensure that those responsible were “held to account for their actions”. However, he said that young people with “complex issues” needed to have the necessary services “wrapping around [them] to help them move on with their lives”.
Reflecting on their surge in demand since the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the Conservative politician added: “The night-time economy has been…another real pinch point for the force.
“A lot of people very sadly forgot how to go out and drink sensibly and have a decent night out. [That]..has created an unsustainable demand.
“People have forgotten how to behave and the policing model is not set up to be able to deal with basically being bouncers for every nightclub in Lancashire. That’s been a real problem, [but] seems to be calming down a bit.
“We’re [also] seeing an increase in confidence in people coming forward to report domnestic abuse and sexual violence – and we’ve got to deal with that properly, we’ve got to do those victims justice.”
A dedicated rape and serious sexual offences team has recently been established within the Lancashire force, comprising 40 additional officers who are working with those who were already dealing with such crimes.
“Someone being raped [or] someone, in their own home, being subjected to mental and physical violence on a recurrent basis is abhorrent and must be horrific for that individual.
“The service that we should provide the victims of domestic abuse, rape [and] serious sexual assault should be what we would expect for our own loved ones if it happened,” Mr. Snowden said.
Meanwhile, the man who holds the police to account in Lancashire would like to see officers put under less unnecessary pressure by dint of the fact that 101 is the “easiest number for people to remember” – whatever their problem.
“We’re doing a lot of partnership working with the councils and the NHS to say that we’re going to have to move some of this demand, because it’s not fair on someone who is ringing 101 for the correct reason to have to wait 20 minutes behind people who are ringing up to report a pothole. I’ve not met a police officer yet who goes and fixes potholes.”
Asked what he can point to where he has made the biggest difference in his first year in office, he says the reopening of police stations previously closed to the public in Leyland, Kirkham and Clitheroe – with Waterfoot, in Rossendale, due to open this summer – part of an election pledge to ensure each district has at least one police station that they can walk into and speak to an officer.
“For me, that is the real big signal [and] physical change that people can see that says there is ..a different approach – that we are starting to rebuild that public confidence that the police should be from and for the public communities that they serve and be at the heart of local neighbourhoods."