On Thursday the 11th of December 2008 Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee will be discussing policing. I have written the below to my local councillors, copying selected other members of the committee, suggesting items I believe it would be useful to discuss during the policing agenda item:
- TASER – The Home Secretary has said all front line response police should be armed with these weapons; are they needed in the North of Cambridge?
- Arbury ward police consultative meeting – suggestions for better communication within the police, and improved CCTV coverage of Kingsway arose, can the committee act on them?
- Burglary – Levels have doubled compared with the same period last year. Councillors need to reverse the decision they made at the April 2008 North Area Committee and make burglary a local priority even though it is on the list of city wide priorities set by the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership. The local priority set in the winter of 2007/8 worked as it resulted in the police patrolling the streets of the north of Cambridge when it was dark.
- Criminal damage in Arbury in November – This has been omitted from the report, because the report isn’t up to date enough. A verbal update should be requested.
- Cycle Crime – Do the police still believe cycle thefts are not “organised” and bikes are not leaving the city?
- PACE Codes – The situation with respect to Stop and Account has been regularised elsewhere, but not in Cambridge.
- Fly-tipping – Can the police issue fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for flytipping in the North Area yet? Perhaps the committee should consider the police issuing Cambridge City Council FPNs more generally.
I believe the meeting ought start this item with an update on the apparent new roles of Inspectors Hutchinson and Kerridge with respect to policing North Cambridge. Is Inspector Hutchinson’s role of “Crime Manager” for Cambridge a new one, and what does it involve?
1. TASER deployment to all front line response police.
While I support firearms officers having TASERs which they can elect to use as an alternative to a gun, I do not believe our police should be routinely armed with TASERs. This will damage the relationship between the public and the police, making policing harder.
Within hours of the Home Secretary’s announcement on Monday, 24 November 2008 the Metropolitan Police Authority decided not to extend TASER use to all front line response officers in London on the grounds that they may cause fear and damage public confidence. The situation in Cambridgeshire is not so clear.
What is the view of councillors; do they want to see our local police armed with TASERs?
What is the view of the police in Cambridge? We have had no clear statement following the Home Secretary’s Announcement.
Will TASERs be discussed at the Police Authority meeting on the 17th of December? (County Cllr Wilkins, a member of the Police Authority, is also a member of the North Area Committee, Ruth Joyce Independent member for Cambridge City has said she will attend if she can.)
I would like to see councillors reject this proposal, and send a message to the police and police authority to this effect.
Liberal Democrats nationally are opposing the new TASER deployment, do all Cambridge Liberals agree?
2. Arbury Police Consultative Meeting
No Liberal democrat councillors or representatives were present. No city council staff, for example housing officers or community development officers attended. Why is the current council apparently disinterested in opportunities for local influence over policing in Arbury? Involvement from the public would I believe be greater if councillors, council officers and others able to take action based on what was discussed attended.
There are two items arising from that meeting which I would like to take to the North Area Committee and ask councillors to act on:
i/ PC Ball reported that it was often frustrating for her to return to Parkside after a shift and find out that there had been calls from residents, including at Kingsway, which had come in while she was out on duty but had not been passed onto her. She suggested that a lack of local knowledge in the control room in Hinchingbrooke was one of the problems.
I would like the police to report if PC Ball’s concerns have been acted upon and I would like councillors to support PC Ball’s efforts to improve communications, and support efforts to improve the local knowledge of control room operators.
ii/ The other item I think worth bringing up at the North Area Committee is the CCTV coverage at Kingsway. Following the meeting I have been told by the City Council’s CCTV manager that City Homes North is considering CCTV cameras within stairwells at Kingsway, as well as contemplating automatic movement of the existing cameras so that they cover a wider area (something suggested by a Kingsway resident at the Arbury meeting).
The policing report to this week’s North Area Committee gives the dwelling burglary statistics for the north of Cambridge in the last quarter, compared with the same period last year:
|Jul 07 – Oct 07||76|
|Jul 08 – Oct 08||160|
That is an over 100% increase. I invite councillors to consider the disruption, upset and financial loss to those households who have been victims of burglaries.
Councillors will be aware that in 2007 they prioritised burglary at the North Area Committee, then despite protests removed it in 2008. When councillors have prioritised burglary, we saw extra patrols which were effective. I cannot fathom why councillors at the North Area ever deprioritised burglary. Councillors previously said that as burglary became a city-wide priority so didn’t have to mention it in their local priorities any more. I have been saying this was nonsense and these figures prove me right. And now it is not just me, the recommendation in the report to this week’s committee prepared by both the police and council officers also suggests that the city wide priority itsself is not sufficient.
I would like to see my councillors being very clear at the meeting on Thursday and getting the police patrolling the streets of North Cambridge in the early evening and at night again.
The additional patrols we had last year this time included traffic, dog, and firearms teams who were tasked to drive around the streets of North Cambridge when their specialist skills were not required elsewhere. Police patrolling the streets at night is one of the core things I expect them to do. I want them back patrolling in the north of the City.
While I do not think councillors should be directing the police operationally, I think it would be reasonable to ask them how they plan to tackle burglary in the area, and remind them what has worked in the past.
4. Rampage in Arbury.
I note that the rampage in Arbury in the early hours of the 15th of November has not made the report. I am concerned that the police are not aware of the degree of concern and cost which arose from this. I estimate at least three cars had windows broken and twenty had wing-mirrors damaged. Replacing wing mirrors on modern cars many of which have electronic, motorized and heated mirrors can be very expensive; this combined with the broken windows I believe will take the bill for the damage caused on Saturday morning well into the thousands, that’s before the inconvenience gets taken into account.
I am concerned that the police did not invite those, who as I did, had their cars damaged to submit details of the cost incurred to the police so that they could both appreciate better the scale of the incident, and enable those costs to be put before the court should they catch those responsible.
I would like to ask the police at the North Area Committee:
- If a police dog was used at the time of the event to try and catch the offenders (I have made an as yet unanswered FOI request on this point – http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/was_a_police_dog_used)
- If and when the City Council CCTV was reviewed (from Kingsway and Jesus Lock). The CCTV manager told me “We do have a number of incidents in the area and should be able to help but await the police request.”
- For an update on the progress of their investigation.
- How many instances of criminal damage was this recorded as by the police.
I note the Police’s Ecops newsletter stated with respect to this, and related incidents stated on the 19th of November: “Another issue we have picked up on in the last week is that there has been many cases of criminal damage to vehicles on Victoria road,Stretten avenue and Finch close” [They presumably mean Finch Road, and in fact there was also damage as far as Searle Street]
I am intrigued by the phrase “picked up”, what exactly did they mean by that? Is this an indication of the existence of a huge wall between the response police, who knew about the incident as it was taking place, and the neighbourhood police who were left to pick up on it later – perhaps by reading the newspapers?
5. Cycle Crime
I would like to suggest that contrary to the report to this meeting there never was any element specific to the North of Cambridge included within the priority set by the previous North Area Committee. The Inspector made this clear last time, he said he was looking for a mandate for the City wide operation (He also said this when he attended the West/Central meeting).
I have visited the police station cycle store recently. I was shocked by the low number of bikes there, and the poor quality of those bikes recovered. I would like to know how the police reconcile that with what they said when they spoke to the committee in August saying they did not believe there was any organised/bulk element to cycle thefts in Cambridge: “there is no white van full of bikes leaving the city every week”.
I would also like an update on the police Inspector’s scheme involving looking for co-operation from council’s refuse collectors to make the police aware of the presence of large numbers of bikes in back gardens.
I would also like to know if the police have any estimate of the number of cycle thefts which have not been officially reported, but have come to the attention of the police via less formal routes such as via flagging on the immobilise database, or individuals who have located their own stolen bikes seeking permission from the police to recover them, or even though members of the public mentioning the fact their bikes have been stolen to police officers or civilians at the police station front desk.
6. Cambridgeshire Police’s Decision to Ignore the PACE Codes
This matter still concerns me greatly; I am very worried about my local police considering the PACE codes voluntary as there are many important safeguards intended to protect people when they are stopped, searched, arrested, questioned and detained by the police contained only within the PACE codes.
I note that an order has been passed permitting a variation to PACE Code A to enable a pilot scheme trialling the abolition of the current stop and account form; however the list of forces in which this applies does not include Cambridgeshire. Stop and account forms are not in use in Cambridgeshire, the protocol in use is not in my view compliant with PACE Code A.
When can we expect a resolution of the problem i/ specifically with respect to stop and account, (ie. the timetable for bringing in a compliant protocol, perhaps involving handheld devices as reported to previous north area committees) and more generally when and how will either councillors, the police authority or the police themselves take steps to ensure the PACE codes are followed in Cambridgeshire?
7. Fly-tipping – Progress on Agreement.
In 2007/8 the City Council gave Cambridgeshire Police a grant of £50K one of the conditions was:
“The Parties shall enter into negotiations with the aim of agreeing further terms with respect to the issuing of fixed penalty notices in relation to offences with respect to graffiti and littering; the further terms would authorise the issue of these notices by the police community support officers on behalf of the Council”
Why did those negotiations fail?
In the North of Cambridge we have a persistently high level of fly-tipping compared to other areas of the city. Why do our PCSOs not have the powers given to those elsewhere in the county to deal with fly-tipping?
I would like to see the council and police get PCSOs and police officers issuing Cambridge City Council Fixed Penalty Notices, and suggest this maybe a good basis for the enforcement, by PCSOs and police officers of any new bye-laws the council introduces in the future, for example to prevent parking on verges.
Finally I note that other area committees in Cambridge have stopped using the ludicrously unclear “Safer Neighbourhoods” agenda item title. The East Area committee’s Agenda in October reverted to: “Neighbourhood Policing”, other areas are using similarly plain English. Will the North Area please insist their officers make a similar U turn (I believe councillors have requested this before but have been ignored).
My suggestions in relation to previous policing agenda items at the North Area committee are available online:
Where I wrote “I would suggest prioritising burglary (and violent crime).”
Where I commented on the fact the police report noted that burglary remained high when compared to other areas of the City, yet they were asking the committee approve them removing it as a priority.”
I even repeated this point at the intervening meetings when the police weren’t present.
I hope to be able to be present and put some of these points to the police myself on Thursday, I hope my councillors will consider supporting and acting on any they agree with.
The North Area Committee is on the 11th December, at Manor Community College, Arbury Road, the main agenda is to be taken at 19.30, with the planning application taken earlier at 18.30.