Essex police faced with yet more government cuts



Essex Community Messaging is an Essex Police initiative that allows residents to sign up for email or text message alerts about what is going on in their area.

The blurb says: Sign up for free to receive accurate and up-to-date information, crime prevention advice and notifications from Essex Police officers, Essex Watch liaison officers and other key partners, such as Neighbourhood Watch.

It is fair to sign that it is still in its infancy, but looks like it could be a useful tool in making our neighbourhoods safer.

The broken window theory

The broken window theory essentially states that even one broken window normalises anti-social behaviour, effectively encouraging a second broken window, and then a third, and etc. The logical conclusion to be drawn is that of zero tolerance. Fix the small things, all small things, and the rest follows.

As a local councillor I am often confronted by low-level vandalism, graffiti, littering and the such like. My role is to encourage the local authority and police to address these issues, and I have had some success. However, in an era that sees local services and public services constrained by shrinking budgets it is becoming increasing difficult to sort out the broken windows; as resources become scarcer prioritisation is necessary. I understand the pressures and I understand that violent crime, for instance, has to be tackled before less serious crimes. However, there are consequences. I suspect we will see untidier neighbourhoods, for instance.

Cuts have consequences. With less money you get less. Of course, some of the cuts can come through services being more efficient, but this can only account for a fraction of what has to be saved. In policing, for instance, when Essex Police has to a more than a £70 million cut to accommodate it inevitably means fewer front-line police. Smarter policing will follow, but fewer police is not something that I have been asked to deliver; quite the contrary.

Invariably people want to see bobbies on the beat, they want the low-level vandalism sorted, they want safe neighbourhoods and criminals caught. They want zero tolerance; they are going to have to accept the reverse.

Austerity has a price.

Changes to the way Essex Police will engage with local communities

Essex Police have described the changes to the way they will engage with local communities.

• Local PCSOs will hold a weekly ‘street meet’ on their patch
• Every district will hold five or six Local Community Meetings (every eight weeks) (six in the Borough of Southend-on-Sea)
• Local Community Meetings (LCMs) will be chaired by supervisory officer (sergeant or above)
• Every LCM and street meet will be advertised on the Essex Police website in advance
• The website will show agreed local priorities as well as the activity taken to address them.

The letter I have seen includes this: While the new police-led meetings structure will replace police attendance at the NAPs, local communities are encouraged to continue to hold these meetings if they feel they provide value.

Implementation of the new structure will start on October 1st with expectation that all community areas and PCSOs will be delivering the meetings by November 1st.

The first Southend Central LCM will be held on 15th December 2014.

(It was not encouraging to see that their letter had the wrong URL for the Essex Police website.)

No no no no no no no no no no no go

Two meetings last night. the first being the Southend Trades Council. I do not often get to their meetings, usually because of a diary clash, but I am acutely aware of the importance of trade unions. The dominating item was the impending strike by public sector workers, a strike for fair pay. The public sector has certainly seen falling standards of living since the Coalition came to power, and it can be no surprise that after four years of squeezed pay packets they are feeling rebellious.

Alston - Whitehouse - Kavanagh

Alston – Whitehouse – Kavanagh

I went straight from the STC meeting (in Southchurch) to the Essex Police Challenge Meeting in Westcliff-on-Sea. This was hosted by the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston. He was accompanied by his deputy, Lindsay Whitehouse, who managed to read an extract from one email in the whole two hours. Also at the top table was Stephen Kavanagh, Essex Police’s Chief Constable, who made some substantial contributions.

The subjects covered: the two recent Colchester murders, police performance, local policing model, and the summer demand. There was also a question and answer session.

It was largely a public relations exercise. Some statistics were distributed, but I found these mostly frustrating owing to the lack of reference data. The audience was around the forty mark, and this included five Borough councillors (two from Labour, and one each from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Independent Group.)

Cllr Mike Assenheim (Independent, Shoeburyness) made the somewhat startling assertion that it was “well known that there are several no-go areas in Southend”. Well known? Not to this councillor it ain’t. I can confidently state that there are no no-go areas in either the ward I represent, Milton, or where I live in Leigh-on-Sea. If he reads this I hope he will enlighten me as to where he considers these no-go areas to be. Those residents about to be stigmatised by Cllr Assenheim will doubtless rejoice.

I am not about to pretend that there are no violent incidents in the Borough, I think my ward has had its fair share of these. But these do not make the site of these incidents out-of-bounds to anyone. I am frequently out and about in my ward, and not just during daylight hours. I am often alone. It is a safe ward with lots of civic-minded and law-abiding residents. If anyone tells me that they feel unsafe in any street my response is to contact the local policing team and request extra patrols. These requests have so far not been ignored. I cannot speak for Shoeburyness, which parts of which may fit Cllr Assenheim’s description – he knows his ward far better than I do – but even if on occasions true it cannot be helpful to make these sort of public outbursts.

Nick Alston finished the event by stating how accountable he was, and what an improvement he is on the previous governance regime. Aside from commenting about self praise being no recommendation, I also wonder how truly accountable he is. For starters only one in thirty-five Southenders voted for him, and as he carries a party affiliation he is as likely (if not more likely) to have been elected owing to this as to anything else. He cannot escape the fact that he now represents a politicised police force.

I wanted a response, I got a response; reassurances about policing the homeless

I was quite taken aback by an article in last week’s Yellow Advertiser and I wrote to the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner as a result. My letter is here.

I received this response:

Dear Cllr Ware-Lane
Thank you for drawing my attention to the article in the Yellow Advertiser about homelessness in Southend.
You might want to know that I discussed the matter promptly with the Chief Constable of Essex Police, and I understand that he has written to the editor of the Yellow Advertiser to ensure the position of the force is not misunderstood.
I’ve personally talked with several Southend officers and I know that they have a sympathetic understanding of the challenges of homelessness.
I think it’s important that homeless people are treated respectfully and professionally by police and partner agencies, and I have stated this publicly in my latest blog piece for our website.

Working with everyone in our communities
I’m very proud to be Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex: we live in a diverse and vibrant county where many different communities and groups live side by side, generally in a spirit of respect and compassion.
There has recently been some publicity about police and partner initiatives working with homeless people in Southend.
People become homeless for a variety of reasons, most often not by choice. Family breakdown, loss of a job, sometimes a mental health problem such as an episode of severe depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after military service – there are many factors and types of vulnerability that can lead to a life on the streets. These same factors and others can also lead to the misuse of alcohol and drugs which sometimes can add to the challenges of homelessness.
I am pleased that Essex Police is working closely with Southend Borough Council, the Homeless Action Resource Project (HARP), with charities and mental health associations, and with the Southend Multi-Agency Anti-social behaviour Response Team (SMAART) to provide support to homeless people. Sometimes police officers will need to act to enforce the law or prevent crime from happening, and sometimes officers can and do help individuals find support to improve their lives with partner agencies and charities.
Homeless people often find themselves in vulnerable situations, and can be victims of crime. For those who may be suffering with mental health problems, I note that a pilot project is currently being run across south Essex involving specialist mental health nurses working alongside police officers to provide early support and intervention. I welcome this initiative, and have asked for evidence of its impact to be gathered and compared with the experience in north Essex which is not part of the pilot project.
We live in a great county, where Essex Police and partner agencies are doing their utmost to keep our communities and businesses safe whilst also offering support to some of the most vulnerable amongst us.


Thank you again for raising this matter with me.
Yours sincerely
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex

Essex police cuts

I have had sight of the following document: Essex Police REFORM – THE FUTURE OF OPERATIONAL POLICING IN ESSEX

This twelve page document includes the following:

A combination of cuts in our grant and other unavoidable financial pressures mean that recurring revenue savings of approximately £41m per year have to be made by 2014/15.

By 2014, Essex Police will see a reduction of approximately 388 police officer posts, from 3636 to 3248.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) … will have to reduce the overall numbers from 465 to 362.