How use of social media aids effective policing

Following on from the previous post on Crime and Disorder update, Inspector Martin Goodwin, answered a question from Cllr Paul Deach about the use of social media by the police, and why he hadn’t written a post on his twitter account for 5 days.

The surprisingly open admission was that there’s much caution about its use by the Police, and that Martin thought he had neither the technical necessary infrastructure, nor support to develop a plan for it’s use.

The use of social media should be integral to the interaction between police and the public. It isn’t that one form of social media is more effective than any other, each have their roles, and should be part of a combined communication strategy with the public, be it general website, a dedicated website to a topic, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.

Post the 2011 riots the government produced a short brief on Smart Practices for Social Media in Emergencies. It’s a well prepared set of tips to help establish the effective use of social media by the Police and other first responders.

The document begins with these excellent summary points,

  • Social media is a social medium for the people by the people about the people.
  • Social media benefits emergency management as well as the public.
  • Think before you leap and develop a strategy.
  • One size does not fit all. Do your research.
  • Preparedness is the most critical and difficult stage.
  • Engage, interact, participate…don’t just broadcast.
  • Understand the level of resource needed.
  • Seek out promising practices and share them.
  • Start small, fail early, learn often

Conversations from our Neighbourhood Police team to the public shouldn’t be a commentary on every crime or arrest. To do so would merely increase the fear of crime. The limitations of Twitter, only 140 characters per message, presents difficulties. These can be overcome when its value is fully recognised and endorsed.

Using social media helps bring the issues of policing closer to the public, and when used effectively creates a personal link between the police and the public they protect and serve.

Here are some links to social media and the police use of social media.

Comparing Staffordshire and Sussex to Surrey Police, it would seem that Surrey Police have work to do to make effective use of social media.

Committee get update on crime and disorder in Surrey Heath

Last night I attended the External Partnerships Select Committee meeting. I’m not a member of the committee, though as a councillor I can attend, listen and ask questions.

It was the agenda that attracted. The main business was to “consider an update on crime and disorder within the Borough”, with presentations from Surrey Crimestoppers, Surrey Heath Neighbourhood Policing team, and an update on the Surrey Police and Crime Panel.

Inspector Martin Goodwin’s presentation on crime and disorder was crisp, rich in facts and full of passion. It evidenced dedication, commitment, skill and leadership, which I’m sure is part of the reason for the excellent reduction in crime and disorder in the Borough. I’m a slow note taker, so only managed to write down a few facts from Martin’s talk,

  • Overall crime in Surrey Heath is down 12%
  • Camberley town centre violence is down 31%
  • Community satisfaction with the police is high
  • About 45% of crime is classified as cross border crime, where criminals come from outside the borough
  • Though from a low level, there’s a 20% increase in domestic burglary
  • Surrey Heath Neighbourhood Watch is the biggest in the UK

Martin extolled the virtues of co-operative working, and how the Safer Surrey Heath Partnership delivers benefits to the whole community.

As I write this a email pops up on my phone from a Camberley-based businessman, about drunks, drug takers, dog fighting, and loud music in Park Street. Oh, to have had that email yesterday.

The statistics mentioned in the presentation by the Angela Hollinshead, area manager of Surrey Crimestoppers, again which I failed to note, showed how effective a truly anonymous crime reporting system can be.

Each borough in Surrey has one representative on the newly formed Surrey Police and Crime Panel, and ours, Cllr Charlotte Morley, informed the committee of its scrutinising the work the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey.

Lightwater certain to lose its police station

Ok, we already knew that its closure was being actively considered. It was pretty certain to close, and now with a press release from Surrey Heath Neighbourhood Policing Team, and from Surrey Police,  its absolutely certain to close. Here’s the headline and part of the press release.

Police in Surrey Heath on the move as work continues to protect frontline numbers

THE NEIGHBOURHOOD teams at Lightwater are to have a new local base as Surrey Police continues its change programme to prevent cuts to frontline officers.

The review [of all police buildings] found that many of Surrey’s smaller police stations are old, expensive to maintain and little used by members of the public.

In Surrey Heath the neighbourhood teams currently based at Lightwater Police Station are looking to find an alterative base for the six village area but will remain in the current building until a suitable site has been found.

Surrey Heath Neighbourhood Inspector James Norbury said: “By finding a suitable post for the officers covering the six village area we can keep a local base for these teams and gain more police constables for the whole of Surrey Heath.

“This is not about removing officers from the streets as the teams will continue to patrol the same communities they do now.  Surrey Heath will also benefit from the investment of six constables, a sergeant and a detective constable making up a neighbourhood support team.  There will also be additions to force-wide resources like the cross-border team, dedicated rape team and ANPR team which we can call on.

If you’ve got any bright [and sensible] ideas on where to locate the village police teams let me know and I’ll pass them on. Otherwise you can contact James Norbury yourself.

Cut of the day 3: Use of lobbyists stopped

I’m a bit late with this one, as it was announced last week by Eric Pickles, Secretary for Communities and Local Government.

Eric wants to stop Local Government and Quango’s from using lobbyists. Claiming it’s wasteful for them to hire lobbyists to lobby government for more money or their pet project. In Eric Pickles’ article in the Guardian newspaper on the subject, he begins,

“Many councils and quangos hire public affairs firms using taxpayers’ money to lobby government for even more money: it sounds like something that shouldn’t be allowed, but it is happening with increasing frequency.”

There’s no need for this expenditure, when that’s the job of local councillors and the marketing teams in local government to press their case. I can imagine an odd exception or two, but Eric’s argument is sound. It’ll force councils to hone their own skills, and not rely on expensive outside help.

In his Guardian article, Eric provides some examples that he considered wasteful expenditure, and one is about us in Surrey. He says,

“… when Surrey police authorities tried to raise their council tax precept by over 7%, they hired top dogs Weber Shandwick, using public money to try to oppose a cap.”

Eric is leading from the front here, by informing his Arms Length Bodies [Quango's to you and me], all nine of them, to cancel their contracts with lobbyists. If you’re interested in what’s been cancelled, take a look at the list at the bottom of his Department’s press release.

Police Forces to share helicopters

This time last year I was critical of  Surrey’s police helicopter move from Fairoaks Airport in Chobham to RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

It now appears that Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex police forces, each having a police helicopter, are planning to share two police helicopters between the three police forces. It’s Surrey’s police helicopter that’s to be scrapped, according to reports.

When Surrey’s Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm said the Surrey helicopter cost nearly £2m a year to keep in the air. I wonder if the extra miles and associated fuel costs resulting from the move may have made Surrey’s police helicopter more expensive to maintain that those of the other forces. Just idle speculation on my part. Oh, and the BBC reports of vandals attacking the helicopter at Fairoaks last year, sorry BBC, not vandals, let’s be clear, they were criminals.

Hat tip: Surrey Police for picture of helicopter

Seems neighbourhood policing is the hot topic

I only managed to hear the last part of Surrey Heath Borough Council’s chief executive’s, Michael Willis, talk at the annual meeting of Windlesham Parish Council on Monday this week [attended an earlier and clashing meeting]. So I didn’t pick up the story about the move of Lightwater’s neighbourhood policing team to Surrey Heath’s council offices in Camberley, as reported in the Camberley News & Mail,

“NEGOTIATIONS have been taking place for neighbourhood officers based at Lightwater to move into Surrey Heath Borough Council offices. At the general meeting of Windlesham Parish Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council’s chief executive Michael Willis confirmed the council was in talks with Surrey Police.”

I wonder if this story is a little premature. From my understanding, neighbourhood policing teams are looking for bases in all sorts of different local community facilities, they could be council offices, libraries, or even shops. As Surrey Heath police team move their operations to the Council offices in Camberley, that’s one thing, but to also locate the locally based neighbourhood police teams there, well, that’s another thing entirely.

It looks like I’ve some questions to ask, and some research to do.

Neighbourhood policing delivers results

The whole point about neighbourhood policing is that it fosters partnerships with other community organisations, county, borough and parish councils, and the fire and primary heath services.

Lightwater residents will have received the Spring/Summer 2010 Newsletter of the Lightwater & West End Neighbourhood Policing team, which is PC Alison Worger and PCSO Mike Mann.

The ‘Barrier will be permanent’. This refers to the newly installed vehicle barrier into Lightwater Country Park. The newsletter reports that the previous temporary barrier resulted in a “significant reduction in reports of anti-social behaviour in the Park”. Now the barrier is permanent, pleasingly, these reductions will continue.

This is an opportunity to report on the Six Villages Community Day of a couple of Saturday’s ago. I spent an hour or so there. Beautifully organised by the Police, lots of stalls, and lots to do. Sadly too few people attended. But, the local youth can’t now complain that there’s nothing to do. The event showed that the Police can put on a good show, with plenty of interesting activities, such as wall climbing, and bronco riding.  All free too.

Briefing from the Chief Constable of Surrey Police

Jeeps, it was a busy day today. My third meeting of the day was to attend, this evening, with other Councillors and council officers, the annual Surrey Police briefing from Mark Rowley - Chief Constable, Gavin Stephens – Chief Superintendent, and James Norbery – Inspector for Surrey Heath Neighbourhood Policing team.

Impressive performances from all three, who reported on improvements in all of the major performance measures. In December last year I reported on the proposed changes to the organisation of Surrey Police. This evening we learned more about those changes, driven by the need to save money and to refresh the organisation of Surrey Police.

One telling fact, reported by Mark Rowley, was that government funding per head of population in Surrey was £96 in 1996/7, and only £93 in 2009/10. By changing the management structure from a geographic basis to a functional basis, a large number of senior posts can be cut. A benefit of this change is that it gives police constables and neighbourhood policing teams more control over the way they deliver local policing.

Back in December it was suggested that many police stations were to close. Not so, until suitable alternatives are found they’ll remain open. The neighbourhood Policing Teams are beginning a search for suitable police posts to locate neighbourhood officers. Mark Rowley confirmed the addition of 200 front-line constables as a result of the re-structuring, of which over 100 will be ‘beat’ constable.

James Norbury singled out the work done in Lightwater Country Park to reduce anti-social behaviour as an excellent example of police and community engagement and co-operation. Always nice to get a positive mention for our village. Will report more on these initiatives later.

More police in Surrey, less police stations

Some strategic thinking by Surrey Police is resulting in plans for 200 additional front-line police constables, fewer senior officers, and fewer police stations. Here’s the important parts of Surrey County Councils’s press release on the subject:

“The proposals include reducing the number of senior officers within the Force, simplifying the structure and cutting bureaucracy. These changes will enable Surrey Police to invest in 200 extra frontline police officers, and to ensure the Force remains financially sustainable, making the best possible use of tax-payers money.

The Force is exploring, with councils, opportunities to locate local policing teams within borough and district council offices to provide a better service to the public in tackling local problems. The Force is also looking at providing a greater range of more accessible places for the public to meet neighbourhood policing teams, such as within libraries, shopping centres and any other busy focal points in communities.

This would replace some old and expensive police buildings with even more accessible ways for the public to engage with us. Many police buildings are little-used by members of the public but there will be no changes to police stations until better locations for meeting neighbourhood teams have been put in place. Replacing old stations with better ways to meet the public will cut the cost of running our old buildings by millions of pounds and help pay for the 200 extra police constables on the frontline.”

We all welcome additional policing. Although places with a police station likely to close, such as Lightwater, will miss the comfort that a police station gives. The plans, due for approval by Surrey County Council in December, are part of a major rethink on how policing is delivered in Surrey. Changes to police stations will be made after consultation, and will take time to implement. So, we’ll have our police station for a while yet, and of course, we’ve still got our excellent local police team.

Vehicle barrier to Lightwater Country Park

The cases of anti-social behaviour in Lightwater Country Park, particularly vehicles late at night, have caused much concern among local residents.

A temporary vehicle barrier reduced these problems. Unfortunately the process of locking the gate introduced its own problems. Following a short period of reassessment by Surrey Heath Council officers, a more robust and longer-term solution is being proposed at this weeks meeting of the Council’s executive.

The proposal is for an electric barrier that opens and closes automatically at pre-set times. The barrier will open when a vehicle, exiting the park, crosses a pressure pad. A swipe card system will allow entry to the park when the barrier is closed. I’m off to find out more about this scheme. Will report back.