Update on Lichfield Policing (including Q&A session)
Mr Mark Smith, Chief Inspector will be in attendance and give a verbal update.
Chief Inspector Mark Smith attended the meeting and gave a verbal update on Lichfield Policing to the forum.
Due to financial constraints Mr Smith advised that over 800 officers had left the police force over the last 10 years and, as a consequence, the Chief Constable, quite rightly, had said things had to change and introduced the new target operating model. They were now operating from two sides: - one side was the uniformed police – 24/7 – police immediate response unit which used to be provided from Lichfield, Tamworth & Burton but now they come from Burton only but he assured all that there are always 2 response cars in Lichfield at all times. And the other side was the Neighbourhood team – his responsibility – he is responsible for 20 Police Officers and approximately 20 PCSO’s; split down in to four shifts. There is also a small team - County Lines - who look at organised crime. Mr Smith confirmed the PCSO’s are ward aligned with the Police Officers.
Mr Smith summarised the issues and priorities for Lichfield which included car crime particularly as this was still an issue for Lichfield. He said last year’s rise was now stabilising and hoped we would be looking at a down ward dip now as 18 offenders had been convicted and serving custodial sentences. He said there were two types of car crime either forced entry to a property to steal the keys from the house and keyless theft – where thieves use a relay device which communicates to the house to the keys and, of course, a lot of cars are keyless now. The best evidence which helps with these crimes are CCTV, forensics and witnesses/neighbours in the street along with ANPR.
Anti-social behaviour was another focus – Mr Smith confirmed that the PCSO’s focus on repeat locations, victims and offenders and hoped everyone saw some PCSO focus in certain areas.
Vulnerabilities/Domestic abuse was another focus – there is a harm reduction hub within the neighbourhood and they meet every day to overview all cases which have come in over the night and fast track options available. Mr Smith said some progress had been made with this but there was still a lot more to do. He said there was a series of programmes for victims and offenders available through the providers NEW ERA.
Mr Smith advised that the new office on Eastern Avenue homed 50 detectives also so there was additional capacity nearby as well as a Priorities Team which is there too which focuses on the car crime in Lichfield.
Mr Smith said there were many challenges in the next 12 months but wanted to reassure the community that there is some good work taking place – County Lines is very prevalent in Burntwood and have recently eradicated fairly swiftly a major drug operation. He said he does not tolerate any drug activity as these only bring a series of other crimes along with them.
· Mental Health and mental health provision – a lot of Police Officers get tied up with vulnerabilities which is restricting capability so nothing else gets done. This is currently a National issue and a very big challenge and although a joint issue around vulnerability – better provision would assist in freeing up Police Officer time.
· Establishment – Increase in precept – He wants to increase his establishment to 25 Police Officers – some may have seen the Police force have taken a fairly significant recruitment drive including a degree entrance criteria so hopefully new recruits will join with a number of officers due to transfer from other regions so they can retain some proactive capability and experience.
· Organised Crime Groups – Haven’t got any in Lichfield but there is cross-border criminality taking place. The PCSO’s or Police Officers are visible at key locations on roads/train stations etc.
· Knife Crime – Haven’t got a problem in Lichfield but offenders linked to robberies in the area are using knives to remove people of their mobile phones and bicycles. A National issue with potential to grow over the coming years – daily focus in the hub on intelligence linked to weapons being carried.
· Loss of Partnership Manager, Marisha Place – Although the loss of this key member of staff is disappointing, it is the way forward. Mr Smith was not part of the review or the decision-making process but accepts the role has moved on and is covered in other areas so there is a duplication in the role and the hub as well as PCSO’s pick up a lot of what the Partnership Manager used to do, however, rest assured there won’t be any gaps from Marisha’s involvement. Although she will be greatly missed she will leave the contacts/pathways she has made and the Police Force will fill the gaps with PCSO’s and additional Co-ordinators employed by Staffordshire Police and will also look after Marisha planning her future.
Successfully moved a number of drug dealers from the area.
Car key burglaries reduced albeit still a pattern and series in Lichfield and South of the County – this is a National challenge and being experienced across the UK; there can be up to 9 car key burglaries a day in Staffordshire against 50 a day in the West Midlands so we have to put that into context.
Closure Notice served x 2 the first ever served in Lichfield.
A Youth Injunction has been served on a well-known youth causing problems in the area.
Integrated support is now offered by Claire who has set up a support group for drug and alcoholics in the area; she will also support individuals to hospital appointments/counselling/doctors etc. and goes over and above to help those who engage.
Mr Smith summarised by saying that Lichfield crime is level/static and assured all that we live in a safe place even though there are some spikes in some areas.
The following questions were asked:-
Q – How many Special Constables are there in the area?
A - 20
Q – Because of the Cross City line and the increase in late night services, are plans in place to deal with increase in problems?
A – The railway stations are repeat stations and known as hot spot locations so direct radio contact with the Town Centre CCTV and intelligence-led cross county line staff is always available along with regular contact with colleagues in BTP.
Q – The less affluent area of Chadsmead in Lichfield is suffering from open drug taking/dealing in Oakmead Park. How can we convince resources in to North Lichfield?
A - Every shift has a North Officer as actually the North of Lichfield is the busiest. They also have a PCSO who has an engagement meeting there every month. Use these resources, engage people to use them and start the conversations – Will gladly meet up after tonight’s meeting to try to help more.
Q - Marisha going – what is the impact on operations if cover for Marisha’s Partnership Manager post is with existing resources?
A – As the neighbourhood policing has developed with weekly partnership meetings where all partners attend, all Marisha’s avenues (over time) can be picked up, these partnership meetings could quickly be moved to daily meetings if required and he is confident that all contacts Marisha has made will evolve and we will continue with developing those relationships in Marisha’s absence and build on the excellent work Marisha has done over the years.
Q – There is concern that there is no longer a local police presence in Lichfield as the front desk at Frog Lane has been closed recently. From time to time someone may find a wallet/purse - where should this now be handed in to?
A – Ideally everywhere should have a front desk but the Police and Crime Commissioner made a decision to close all front desks and the financial constraints meant that we had to operate more efficiently – footfall through the front office counters had reduced considerably meaning that they were not all required. The force community engagement plan provides opportunity for the public to meet their local officers on every ward every month and this would allow the face to face contact if required. Staffordshire Police will be visible again within Lichfield District Council at a weekly engagement session perhaps between the hours of 2pm-4pm one afternoon but as there was a real problem with lost property it was decided to not keep it all as there was nowhere to store items nor no one to take responsibility for the auditing of it so people are asked to either take lost property to Cannock, Burton or Hanley or ring 101 to report and await advice if they believe the items have been involved or the subject of a crime. Private property would need to be disposed of by the individual themselves.
Q – Applaud the work you are able to do with the resources but is there work with the Greater Manchester Police Force being done because of the close proximity to M6/Toll Road?
A – Intelligence is shared and automatic number plate registration mark reading is used as a tactic so the Central Motorway Policing Group/West Midlands Group and Greater Manchester Police Force can stop criminals on any network.
Q - Are Staffordshire looking at a more community approach?
A – A program of recruiting for PCSOs in the community on a wider scale is taking place next year and for special constables. There is a volunteer co-ordinator at HQ in Stafford who is looking at this and they have set up a Citizens Academy where 30 volunteers from the community will have a series of training days and then go out with PCSOs and be visible (they will not have any special powers above a citizen, however). As yet, there are no plans for these volunteers to come in to Lichfield – they are just being placed in Stoke because the need is greater but the citizens’ academy will be delivered in Lichfield in the next 12 months.
Q – Is there not a case to push Neighbourhood Watch again?
A – Yes, but the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office had ownership of smart alert, OWL and neighbourhood watch all incorporated into smart alert. This has all been handed back to the police and via corporate comms who own social media this has gone out for tender and will be re-launched.
Q – There has been numerous robberies/burglaries on the Britannia Business Park, can any resources be put in there during the day and night please?
A – As a neighbourhood team we have no resources at night but support can be given to the businesses on-site to prevent repeated crimes. As well as a request for patrols from the 24/7 response to visit and provide reassurance. What does the crime prevention strategy look like in that area? Usually, if somewhere has been a subject more than once the police would look at it a bit more – point of contact to be passed on to Mark Smith for more investigations to take place as usually the Crime Scene Investigation team would attend for forensic opportunities and this may be dealt with by the desk based officers in the resolution centre.
Q - If a PC arrested someone in Lichfield where is the nearest custody suite?
A – The nearest custody suite is Watling Street or Hanley.
Q – If both were full, what then?
A – Hanley is a large property and he has never seen Hanley full. However, it is appreciated that to take an offender to Hanley is a good hours drive away and has to be done by two members of staff – therefore capability is written-off because of the travel. The closure of Burton was made based on finances and the fact that operationally it was also under-utilised.
Q – Thank you for your visibility tonight – it’s just been noted there are more District Councillors than Police Officers in Lichfield and communication is two-way. Would like to inform the group that Mark Smith and his team are happy to meet with the public and they can only work with the information they get. As Councillors, everyone needs to ensure incidents are reported to the police as if it’s important to our residents then it is important. We can make demands of the police but what are we doing to reinforce communications – We must publicise calling 101 or Crime Stoppers and report it.
Q – The two PCSO’s at Curborough Community Centre, are they covering the Chadsmead area too?
A – Yes, they are in an office at Curborough as have premises and there is no public premise in Chadsmead. The whole of Lichfield has 6 PCSO’s and a Neighbourhood Officer as well per shift (x3). Jigsaw host drop-in centres with the PCSO’s.
Q – Where does traffic and motoring offences feature in the priorities?
A – The investment of 2 sergeants and 18 officers has been agreed for the force to focus on the new roads policing strategy. Community speed watch are a valuable asset and we need to invest in officers who are trained in using laser devices. One of our roles to promote.
Q – Are Lichfield resources actually coming from Burton then?
A – Yes, we get the resources from Burton. The sergeant will allocate police officers at the briefing every day but resources will move to where the demand is.
Q – Would it be possible to circulate a map of where Police Officers and PCSO’s are in Lichfield?
A – Yes, this can be arranged and circulated. For information a single on-line home is imminent also to inform local community on local issues and community engagement opportunities.