This week we launch our new campaign, #behindthescenes, going beyond the frontline to show you the side of policing that most people never see, but is vital to protect members of the public in the 21st century. To start things off, Temporary Chief Constable Lisa Winward talks about how the service has adapted over the years to meet the demands and priorities of a modern society, while ensuring we make the best use of the resources available.
Despite budget cuts over recent years, we’ve been determined to protect the front-line. And while neighbourhood policing remains the bedrock of our service to the public, policing today goes much, much further than this.
The Internet has profoundly shaped our world and has led to rapid changes in how lots of us live our lives. Innovation and the development of new devices have given us a connectivity and functionality we could never have dreamt about.
It’s a fantastic resource to enable us to learn, share information, play and communicate. It has also provided the police service with opportunities to work smarter. However, there are people who exploit it for more sinister reasons.
With 89% of all adults and 99% of all 16 to 34-year-olds across the UK having access to the internet, cybercrime presents a major challenge for us.
Therefore, to ensure we can deliver the best possible service to our communities and keep you safe, we need to change how we do things too!
So just like you doing your shopping and chatting to your friends on the internet, rather than going to a shop or meeting your friends in the street, your local police are still there for you but just in a different way, but still working to keep you safe.
Our officers and staff are now made up of not just uniformed police officers, but we have Police Community Support Officers, Police Staff Investigators, along with people who are specially trained to investigate crimes such as online child abuse, cybercrime and fraud.
For example, part of the work of our Cybercrime Unit is to proactively target suspects who are viewing online images of child abuse. And of course, they aren’t out on the streets doing this, so you won’t see them doing it. In the past three years the team have uncovered 117 suspects. 58 of those have been prosecuted, 42 have been sent to other forces to investigate and 17 remain under investigation. Jail terms totalling 28 years have been secured, Sexual Harm Prevention Orders totalling 217 years and 20 indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Orders.
They have examined hundreds of devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, and have viewed 1,000s of images of child abuse of all categories, including some of the worst imaginable. But it doesn’t stop there.
The majority of offenders are placed on the sex offenders register and once they are released from prison, or receive a suspended sentence, they will be monitored by another unseen team. This time it’s our public protection officers who work directly with offenders to prevent reoffending and compliance with their Sexual Harm Prevention Orders. This side of policing goes unseen but is one of our foremost priorities if we are to protect the most vulnerable in society.
And not forgetting non-uniformed staff such as
- the detectives who investigate murders, rapes, child abuse, domestic abuse
- the financial investigators who work on some of the most complex fraud enquiries
- the collision investigators who seek justice for the victims who are killed or seriously injured on our roads
- the intelligence officers who gather information so that our patrols and proactive action is targeted in the right place at the right time
- the crime scene investigators who gather crucial evidence to support investigations
- the control room staff who are the at the centre of it all, making split-second decisions about where to prioritise our resources
- the prosecution team – the vital link between the police and the courts
- the complementary functions whose work is crucial to the smooth running of the service
None of these officers or staff patrol the streets in a hi-vis uniform, but their role is just a vital, working behind the scenes, 24 hours a day, to prevent reoffending, to protect the vulnerable, to prevent crime and to get justice for victims.
Add to that budget cuts across the police and other public services and the large proportion of our time spent at incidents relating to public safety and welfare, it’s inevitable that we’ve had to re-think how we police and develop a number of strong, working partnerships, particularly in the area of mental health and safeguarding children. We’ll be going in to more depth around this important area of work through our new #behindthescenes campaign over the coming months to show you more of the unseen side of policing.
There is no doubt that we have to manage our resources carefully and cannot attend every incident that’s reported to us. But instead of having a “one size fits all” policy on certain types of crime, we use the THRIVE methodology to prioritise our response – Threat, Harm, Risk, Investigative opportunities, Vulnerability and Engagement.
For example, let’s say I come out of my house in the morning and someone has scraped their keys down my car. I’m pretty upset, so I call the police. But, I don’t feel at risk and don’t really want an officer to call at my house. If they need any more information I’m happy for them to give me a call. In this instance, using THRIVE, we would probably decide not to send an officer.
But let’s look at this in different circumstances. This time the crime is the same but the victim has just split up from a violent partner. She thought he didn’t know where she lived, but no other cars seem to have been damaged and she feels she has been targeted. She is scared and calls the police. When we apply THRIVE in this instance, the level of threat and vulnerability is totally different. So we would send an officer to this incident.
Over the last year THRIVE has helped us to reallocate around 2,000 hours of police officer time from incidents that didn’t really need police attendance to incidents where they can make a real difference. That’s important because we have a limited number of resources so we need to make the best use of their time. However, if you don’t agree with our decision and you want an officer to call, we will send one.
Talking of officer time, we’ve recently rolled out tablets and smartphones to all front-line officers so they can spend more time out in our communities instead of driving back to the station to carry out admin work. It’s one example of how we’re using technology to change how we work and make our resources go further.
We are very lucky in North Yorkshire to have great public support and subsequently have a strong history of volunteering. From Special Constables to Cadets, our volunteers are amazing and help us provide an enhanced service to our communities.
Our Citizens in Policing Team (the collective term for all police volunteers) is currently working on a new scheme to help reduce demand on our officers by providing mentors and befrienders to vulnerable people who would benefit from advice and support to help reduce dependency on the emergency services.
Around 108 people come into contact with North Yorkshire Police each month in need of low-level assistance or support with day-to-day life-skills. It’s sometimes not appropriate or cost effective for a public or voluntary service to offer support at the time. However, each individual incident takes up between one and three hours per week of policing time, either from a police officer or police community support officer. By providing volunteer mentors to help people take positive control of their lives, the scheme aims to free up around 800 hours of policing per month.
Neighbourhood and Rural Watch volunteers – ordinary people who are our eyes and ears, and not only provide vital information to help us fight crime, but provide a social and supportive network for each other, leading to a sense of inclusion and a much healthier community.
Policing is incredibly complex but I hope this blog gives you a little bit of an insight into the reasons why you don’t always see police officers on the streets and reassurance that even if you don’t see us, we are still working behind the scenes to keep you safe.
To find out more about joining us as a volunteer or Special Constable, visit our website northyorkshire.police.uk/jobs
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