Katy Bourne is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex.
In May 2020 we will have elections in England and Wales for the third term of Police and Crime Commissioners. That means that we will have had eight years since one of the biggest changes to police governance so it’s a timely moment for me to reflect.
I’m proud of: raising awareness of hidden crimes like stalking; I’ve helped our younger and older citizens engage with police; I’ve saved police time through technology; and I’m currently reducing anti-social behaviour and diverting young people from criminal and violent behaviour.
Lifting the stone on hidden and under-reported crimes was one of my first priorities. When I took office in 2012, the handling of domestic abuse left a lot to be desired – a “domestic” was something that took place behind closed doors and was best left alone.
That was not acceptable to me. I made it a priority in my police and crime plan and a year later Sussex Police became the first to be granted White Ribbon status in recognition of their commitment to deal with domestic abuse.
When I heard that young girls were being flown in and out of Gatwick for Female Genital Mutilation, I funded training for 16 police officers to become specialist investigators in harmful traditional practices.
Stalking was an under-reported crime. My own experience over six years made me realise just how little police and prosecutors knew about it. It was dismissed as a nuisance not a crime and the tragic murder of stalking victim Shana Grice in Brighton and other cases showed that the police needed to look at the wider picture from victims reporting stalking.
I campaigned through the media to raise awareness and, over the past three years, there has been a 540 per cent increase in reports of stalking in Sussex.
I funded the first local specialist stalking service for victims in Sussex which now gets an average of two high risk victims referred to it every day.
Working with Sussex Police and the College of Policing, we have introduced my acronym FOUR to remind people that, if a person’s behaviour is Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted and Repeated, it is stalking.
I commissioned the first HMICFRS inspection on stalking and, in April, I convened a cross-party roundtable of PCCs in Parliament to share good practice and agree on next steps, and I will be discussing these with the Victims Minister in July.
I spend a lot of my time talking to the public in Sussex but we were not hearing enough from young people. I established the Sussex Youth Commission of 25 young people to conduct a “big conversation” with their peers.
They produced two uncompromising reports with recommendations for police. Following one of their recommendations, they were invited to establish a Youth Independent Advisory Group to steer officers on effective child-centred policing. They also challenged and redesigned the force’s Stop and Search educational material.
From 2015, we repeated the “big conversation” through my Sussex Elders Commission volunteers. They collated 6,000 responses into a report launched in the Palace of Westminster in 2016 with suggestions for tackling fraud and cybercrime in particular. This led me to fund two fraud caseworkers to support fraud victims and target-harden them against further attacks. Last year they supported 638 elderly victims who lost a staggering total of £11.8million.
With a responsibility to ensure efficient and effective policing, I wanted to exploit technology to free up police time. Working with the Chief Constable, we’ve provided mobile data handsets to keep officers out in the community and body-worn video to provide evidence of their interactions.
In 2017, I secured £11.5million from the Police Transformation Fund to scale up the use of video across the South East for providing evidence to reduce the time police spend travelling to court and waiting to give evidence. So far in Sussex, 14 video endpoints have enabled 406 officers to give evidence, saving 2,000 officer hours or the equivalent of 241 shifts. That is an investment that is already paying dividends.
The most satisfying work that my office has co-ordinated and funded recently is an early youth intervention programme we call REBOOT. I secured nearly £900k from the Home Office to address their Serious Violence Strategy and encourage young people to make positive choices instead of becoming involved in crime.
REBOOT is built around the pan-Sussex Early Intervention Protocol, an agreement between Sussex Police, Youth Offending Services and the NHS. It provides a five-stage pathway for young people with early indicators of serious violence, with an enforcement element at its final stage.
Instead of demonising young people, REBOOT focuses on developing their positive attributes and ambitions. Personal coaches identify suitable activities that are available (and funded) to divert them from following the wrong path.
Since April, over 300 young people have been referred to REBOOT and only one has reached the enforcement level.
I know that, as PCC for Sussex, I have been part of many significant changes and improvements for local communities, for police officers and for victims of crime.
At a local level, PCCs have dramatically transformed engagement with the public and are helping to rebuild trust with police and, nationally, PCCs are challenging the status quo in policing to make it work better.