Tim Passmore is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk.
Here in Suffolk, the Coronavirus pandemic continues to have a very profound effect on our daily lives. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I completely empathise with the frustration many of us feel at this time of national emergency. The many premature fatalities are a terrible tragedy for far too many individuals and families. We know from what happened to the Prime Minister – now thankfully recovered, this awful disease can strike at anyone. The long-term damage to our economy could be extremely serious and for large numbers of individuals their future has become worrying and full of uncertainty. We must not however, give up hope for a better future when the pandemic is over – remember such emergencies do not last forever.
Since the lockdown started I have been able to work from home and have only ventured out to do some shopping or deliver essential items. The vast majority of people have been heeding the government’s requests and staying at home and our police force have not had too many situations requiring enforcement. By the end of the Easter Bank Holiday just under a hundred penalty tickets had been issued across Suffolk for contravening the emergency public health legislation.
Overall, our police force is doing a great job in difficult circumstances – our absenteeism due to self-isolation has always been one of the lowest in the country and recorded crime levels have fallen overall by around 20 per cent.
That said, it disgusts me that a few uncivilised individuals feel it is acceptable to spit or cough at police officers and other essential front-line staff. I am very pleased these offenders are being prosecuted – there is no excuse for such appalling behaviour and I am particularly pleased our new MP for Ipswich, Tom Hunt, is pressing for stronger sentencing.
Living in a large rural county like Suffolk does provide some respite from the pandemic. The fine weather has helped and my garden has never looked so tidy…
It cannot be easy if you live at the top of an inner city tower block, are a single parent with young children, or are cooped-up in a remote rural location where communication with the outside world is compromised by poor mobile signals or broadband connectivity. Spare a thought for those too, living in fear of violent abuse, now existing in a form of hellish confinement because of the lockdown.
As PCC, I have responsibility for commissioning victims’ services and I worry about the future capacity of our voluntary and charitable organisations, should demand for their expertise rise substantially later this year. Their commitment and dedication to help rebuild shattered lives and assist victims come to terms with what has happened to them will be even more significant.
When the lockdown eases, there may be a surge in cases of recorded crime and preparations must be made to tackle this extra demand and to clear the backlog of court cases and prosecutions.
The whole criminal justice system is already making recovery plans and as chairman of our local criminal justice board I have been impressed with the collective endeavour to meet the challenge and clear the backlog. Public trust and confidence must be maintained and ensure the victims’ needs remain at the centre of our work. The old adage of justice delayed is justice denied has never been more apposite and I am totally committed to doing whatever I can to aid this recovery.
Difficult times can be turned to advantage. I am not in anyway attempting to be uncaring or callous, but as Her Majesty The Queen said in her excellent broadcast, we will meet again and come back together, so we must be optimistic about our future. It is a time to gather new thoughts and a fresh purpose and commit to working together across all communities.
To secure that future, once the pandemic is under control, the priority must be the economy. To its great credit the government has committed vast sums of taxpayers’ money to help mitigate the situation, which will help many individuals and businesses. It is also in listening mode and making adjustments to the various schemes and initiatives on a daily basis – a very welcome stance.
However this debt has to be repaid and there will need to some serious action taken to rebuild the economy led by the private sector, since it is here the main wealth generation will take place. We have to ensure that the younger generation and those of lower skill levels or incomes do not get left behind. There is a very clear link between raised levels of deprivation and higher rates of crime. A thriving economy is for everyone’s benefit and it will be a difficult recovery but by working together and supporting each other we can and must make that improvement – frankly there is no alternative.
When the pandemic is over, there will be a need to learn lessons and make better provision for future emergencies – but now is not the time for that analysis. We will succeed and can invoke that well-known Churchill quote – “Continuous effort- not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential” and “Give us the tools and we will finish the job” so let’s get on with it!