Rupert Matthews is an MEP for the East Midlands and the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for the Leicestershire and Rutland Force area.

Earlier this month, I was deeply honoured that Conservative Party members in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland placed their faith in me to become our Party’s prospective candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for the Leicestershire and Rutland Force area.

I make no bones about the fact that the police officers, staff, and volunteers in our area are second to none and do a magnificent job. Their dedication is not in doubt, nor is their professionalism. But the role of the PCC is to represent the public and to hold the Chief Constable to account. The PCC also has significant direct responsibilities, such as victim support. It is here that a Conservative can make a real difference for the better across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Our area, like others in the UK, has an issue of rising knife crime, so I am already talking to PCCs in other areas to see how we can bring best practice to our area. The PCC can invest in preventative programmes too. For example, the Ben Kinsella Trust does magnificent work in educating our younger generation on the dangers of carrying knives. Working with charities and establishing preventative education programmes would be a priority for me. And yes, targeted use of stop-and-search is a vital tool in preventing knife crime. We must move away from a mentality where police are afraid to stop those who they feel are suspicious. As PCC, I would create an atmosphere where our officers are trusted to use their instinct.

Of course, knife crime predominantly occurs in urban areas, but the Leicestershire and Rutland Force area is extremely diverse. As well as the large city of Leicester, it also includes rural areas. However, we should not make the mistake that these areas are without their own specific issues. In Leicestershire, we have had issues where church roofs have been targeted by thieves for their lead, causing thousands of pounds of damage. Livestock have been slaughtered by thugs, damaging the livelihoods of farmers. I was amazed that Leicestershire Police has not adopted a specific rural crime strategy. As PCC, I would ensure that a specific policy is put in place to address rural crimes.

But regardless of where a crime is committed, whether it be in a small village, large town, or major city, I realise the importance of taking EVERY crime seriously. The key to this is responding to all crimes in a timely fashion. Obviously the most serious crimes should receive an immediate response. But I have heard of cases where car owners who have their vehicles damaged by vandals have not been interviewed for three weeks. Every crime is important, no matter how big or small they are. A crime is a crime after all. Victims waiting for weeks for a police response is clearly not acceptable. Therefore, I believe that all crimes should receive a response within 24 hours of it being committed.

An important part of a PCC’s role is supporting the victims of crime. In Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland we have a specific service set up by the last Conservative PCC called Victim First. The service aims to provide a tailored support package for victims of crime with named support workers allocated to those victims. However, this service has been allowed to stagnate – the website hasn’t been updated since its launch. As PCC, I will put in a renewed effort to support the victims of crime.

Finally, as a Conservative I want to see efficient use of public funds. Of course, I will be lobbying for additional Government funds – we get £169 per head from central government as opposed to the national average of £207 – but we must spend money more wisely too. Utilising new technologies can help with this. Using drones to track down criminals on the run is more cost-effective than sending a police helicopter, and I am looking into more extensive use of Smart CCTV. We can achieve more with less, but rest assured I will be lobbying central Government for our fair share of the budget.

I am under no illusion about the task ahead. While I am clear about the changes I want to introduce to make our communities safer, we must first win this seat back from Labour who dramatically took it from us in 2016. There is a very well-oiled Labour Party machine in Leicester, and they will throw the kitchen sink at this election – they will not want to lose. My commitment, and that of the Party members in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, to win is absolute.

The Leicestershire and Rutland Force area is a wonderful place to live and work. We have many diverse communities covering a large and varied area. Policing in our area needs to reflect this and requires a PCC who understands the differing needs of our city and two counties. I understand these needs. I can’t wait to get started. I will give my all to become the Conservative Party Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.