Lorne Green is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk
Norfolk is one of the safest counties in the country with one of the few police forces nationally who are rated outstanding for efficiency. Our county, however, is not immune from the challenges of the changing nature of crime, growing demand, and the increased complexity of investigations – all in face of serious resource constraints. Norfolk’s constabulary has had to absorb major resource cuts in recent years to an extent that the gap between resources and needs cannot be bridged by efficiency measures alone.
I pledged during the 2016 Police and Crime Commissioner election that if elected I would equip the Norfolk Constabulary with the 21st century tools to prevent and combat crime. I have worked hard to honour that pledge. Since 2016 the Norfolk Constabulary has been fully equipped with body-worn video cameras; the Dixon of Dock Green era black notebooks and pencils have been replaced by tablets. Drones now play a big part in locating missing persons and saving lives, and providing quick response in this big and largely rural county to quickly track down criminals such as those involved in hare coursing. Automated Number Plate Recognition technology has been extended across the county, with major financial backing from my office, and has lead to hundreds of vehicle seizures and arrests.
A particular concern in recent years has been the growing threat from County Lines with major drug dealers attempting to spread their poison with associated violence from the metropolitan areas to our county. We have seen a big increase in knife crime within the criminal fraternity and I have funded an initiative with the Street Doctors to impress graphically on vulnerable young people the terrible potential consequences of carrying a blade. Drug dealers largely from outside the county seek to exploit and prey upon vulnerable young people and adults in our community. Our constabulary is resolute in preventing this plague from taking hold in our community and the constabulary’s Operation Gravity is a sustained commitment to respond effectively, with notable results including hundreds of arrests, important prosecutions, and the rescue of many vulnerable people from the clutches of dangerous criminals.
We have seen a big increase in the number of reported Domestic Violence incidents. While many incidents are historic, it appears that DV is on the increase. It is of course good news that victims are readier to come forward and report. At the same time the response to and investigation of alleged DV crimes make an enormous call on resources. My office commits major funding to support community organisations which work with DV victims and their families to help them recover and we are exploring perpetrator programmes to help break the cycle of violence.
I have been troubled by the exponential increase in the number of reported assaults on police and other emergency workers over the most recent 12 month period. An assault on an emergency worker is an assault on us all because they are there to protect us. We need our police on the frontline, not sitting in an A&E as a patient or off duty due to injury. I have lobbied hard for an increase in maximum sentencing for assaults on emergency workers. While recent legislation which increases sentencing from six months to 12 is welcome, I believe a maximum 5 years tariff would be more commensurate with the gravity of the offence.
Norfolk is blessed with the greatest number of medieval churches in the country – these are the jewels in the Norfolk crown. But the lead which lines the roofs of hundreds of them has been preyed upon by those who think nothing of desecrating and damaging these important parts of our community life and heritage. Accordingly I launched an initiative to address the problem by advancing substantial funding as seed money to stimulate buy-in from other concerned bodies including the Diocese. The Raise the Roof campaign has raised sufficient funds to date to silent alarm 75 of the churches at greatest risk with a marked decrease in the number of incidents.
Cutting the rate of reoffending is a major personal preoccupation. The Gateway to Employment Board I chair, which includes public and private sector partners, has had great success in enlisting many potential employers across the county and has generated many job opportunities. In the same way my Rehabilitation Board addresses the wider needs of ex-offenders such as housing provision. A project close to my heart is the Rescue-Rehab scheme I launched at Norwich Prison in fulfilment of an election pledge. Dogs from rescue centres are matched with select prisoners who gain handling and grooming skills which apart from the therapeutic advantages, stand them potentially in good stead for employment opportunities on release. There is anecdotal evidence that this scheme has saved lives and we are in the process of expanding it.
My office launched the WONDER (Women of Norfolk Diversion, Engagement and Rehabilitation), programme to offer women an alternative to entering the criminal justice system. This scheme recognises the special needs and circumstances of many female offenders and gives them a second chance with support to direct their lives into more positive directions.
I am immensely proud of our Norfolk Constabulary and the progress it has made to ensure it can keep our Norfolk community safe in face of new, growing and more complex challenges. A 21st century equipped police force fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century – that is the new normal for Norfolk.