Providing clarity over crime figures
Dear Sir, — Happy new year. I wanted to update you on local policing in the Moorlands.
I have, over the past few weeks, read, or have been made aware of, comments on local social media pages and comments made in response to local police-related media articles, that have not been quite correct with regards to the current policing arrangements and performance in the Moorlands.
I thought this would be an ideal time to provide some clarity and accuracy around Moorlands crime statistics and police presence to avoid the fear of crime becoming greater than the crime itself.
When I first became a police officer, we didn’t use computers, no one had a mobile phone and investigation techniques were very different to now. We engage in very different ways and deal with many different crime types.
Now we have CCTV, ANPR cameras that collate vehicle information from number plates, mobile phones that hold far more data than the computer that put the man on the moon, witnesses can be contacted via Skype, statements taken over the phone and cctv evidence sent in an email attachment. The need for people to be in one location is not as necessary as it once was and investigating crime is more complex than ever. We are more agile in the way we support the community and deal with different crime than ever before.
That being said, the Moorlands is a huge area, 222 square miles, some of which is really remote.
We want to be able to respond to incidents effectively and keep a police presence across the three towns and in the rural locations. We have a number of officers/police community support officers (PCSOs)/specials allocated who work here. These numbers are carefully balanced in line with the needs of the Moorlands and force. It is, though, also the case that in some circumstances, regardless of how ever many resources I may have available, some incidents can take place so quickly any amount of police present in an area may struggle to get there and respond in time. It goes without saying that I would always want more resources available to me.
The Moorlands is a beautiful and safe place to live, visit and work. The levels of crime and anti-social behaviour compared to most other places are far less. I can say this as I see the statistics daily and I have in my career worked throughout Staffordshire, and in all the northern cities. I can speak from experience as I know what it feels like to work a high-crime area.
I know that the impact of crimes, like a recent robbery in Leek town centre, has a greater impact in places such as the Moorlands as such crimes are infrequent here. Therefore the community is understandably worried to hear of such incidents taking place in our town.
Communication is essential and I wanted to make sure that you hear from me as the lead officer. I am, though, also very much aware that social media can be a breeding ground for mistruths, where inaccuracies and assumption around incidents with little information can fast become urban myth. This only serves to create a climate of fear which is really not warranted in the Moorlands.
It is the case that response policing is now based in Hanley and has been since the summer of 2018.
However, the default location for those officers includes locations in the Moorlands where they work from. Their default location is not Hanley and they should not be travelling to and from there as appears to be the common perception.
Response policing deal with those calls for service which need a quick response across the county — those incidents which carry an imminent threat to personal safety or property, and crimes in action that need a fast response.
While this is clearly important, it is not the volume of our demand. A lot of calls relate to crimes or incidents which can be investigated remotely by our resolution centre, or following initial investigation by the CID or other investigative teams, or locally at a slower pace by Moorlands neighbourhood officers.
When response policing moved to the city, the Moorlands had an uplift in neighbourhood officers. These PCs and PCSOs are here for visibility, community engagement and they deal with a large amount of the lower-level calls for service that often require a problem-solving approach, issues involving vulnerability, anti-social behaviour and repeat victims/offenders or locations. The neighbourhood officers have been trained to do this and have done so to great effect often working with our council partners and commissioned services such as social services and health.
My team and I enjoy close working relationships with your MP, district, town and parish councillors, who raise community and individual concerns which we work hard to resolve.
My team also support response policing by attending many urgent incidents when they are the nearest patrol, a common-sense approach to try and ensure the community receives the best response service possible.
Neighbourhood PCs and PCSOs are based at and operate from all three Moorlands locations — Biddulph police post and Leek and Cheadle police stations. None of the Moorlands locations have closed and there are no plans to close any in the near future.
Yes, the public enquiry offices at Cheadle and Leek police stations are no longer open as they were Monday to Friday. However, both Leek and Cheadle enquiry offices have been opening at lunchtimes during their respective market days (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) where a PCSO is available for you to meet and discuss any local issues.
The decision to close the enquiry offices was not made easily and was done after assessing footfall and demand and we communicate very differently. While I would love to keep them open, it is right that they closed. A lot of the work enquiry office staff used to do can now be done online.
The facts are that I am really fortunate to have a hard working and committed local team who are supported by force teams and local partners. Between us we have made great reductions in key areas and overall the Moorlands is currently showing a reduction in recorded crime of 15% (727 less crimes than the previous 12 months).
• Residential burglary is down 12% (19 less);
• Criminal damage is down 21% (160 less);
• Public space violence (crimes of violence in our town centres) is down 13% (80 less).
Leek, our largest town, has had a reduction of 20% (44 less);
• Anti-social behaviour is down 6% (115 less reports than the previous 12 months).
There have been increases in some areas recently after seeing reductions for a long time, most notably thefts from motor vehicles which are up 41% (46 more than the previous 12 months) this was in part due to a spike in November and the actions of two prolific offenders both of whom have since been arrested, convicted and sentenced following targeted work and the involvement of your neighbourhood team.
We will continue to work hard as a team to build on the success we have had, to keep the Moorlands the safe place it is and react to calls for service effectively.
You can help by letting us know what your issues are.
My team hold many public meetings which are published in advance (both physical and on-line) so you can come along and ask about the issues affecting your community or tell us about something that is important to you. Details of these events are published on social media, local radio and traditional Press.
I appreciate that at times when contacting the police using the 101 system you are placed in a queue and that is not ideal. For non-urgent incidents you can now contact us via direct message on Facebook and Twitter. This is a far easier way and allows you to pass all your concerns in one message which will be replied to by the most appropriate resource. I know from personal experience that this makes it far easier and quicker than calling.
You can also report many matters online via staffordshire.police.uk — Yours faithfully,
CHIEF INSP MARK THORLEY
Staffordshire Moorlands Neighbourhood Policing Team.