A message from the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne OBE, as we come to the end of 2020:
When the clocks strike midnight tonight, the words “Happy New Year” will be said with real meaning and imbued with hope for brighter days ahead.
Although 2020 is the year we would like to forget, let’s take a moment to thank and remember the efforts of our police officers, PCSOS and police staff who valiantly carried on keeping us safe throughout the darkest days of the pandemic.
Recruitment and training of more police officers, PCSOs and specialist staff had to be adapted for social distancing but it was maintained with ingenuity and persistence. Now there are an extra 100 PCSOs boosting the visible presence in neighbourhoods and public feedback shows that people feel safer as a result.
Rural communities have welcomed the Rural Crime Team - the largest dedicated unit in the south east - bringing extra capacity to tackle equipment theft as well as wildlife and heritage crimes. We are grateful for the co-operation and guidance of farmers and landowners providing access and advice to develop the Team’s skill and knowledge.
Extra officers also meant the force could expand the Tactical Enforcement Units across all three Sussex Divisions with a county-wide Team soon to be launched to target serious and persistent criminals. Two weeks ago, the Government announced the funding that will be available for policing. Sussex’s share of the national uplift of 6,000 officers for next year will be 121 additional officers and six extra officers for the Regional Organised Crime Unit.
Many criminals were kept off our streets during lockdowns but cyber enabled crime, fraud, stalking and online harms grew. Sussex Police were quick to reach out to victims of domestic abuse with a discrete reporting app that was lauded by the Home Secretary and other police forces. My office also channelled around £1m extra to support local services helping people escape and recover from violence and abuse.
Another Sussex success story is the work of the Economic Crime Unit which is partly funded by assets recovered from criminals. The banking protocol that has been in operation since 2017 has, so far, prevented ordinary people from losing £6m to fraudsters. We saw some Covid-related testing and PPE scams and we can expect to see an explosion in vaccine scams too. With fraud making up 33% of all crime, we need to be extra vigilant as the criminals get more innovative and ruthless.
I hope you will have seen the “make the right call” campaign which is encouraging people to use the most appropriate way of contacting police? Investment from local taxpayers into the police control, contact and command centre has helped transform call handling and waiting times.
101 waiting time is now averaging 2.5 minutes - down from 12 minutes two years ago. There has been a 32% reduction in people abandoning calls and a 23% rise in digital contact. This is an excellent achievement by dedicated officers and call handlers and testament to the leadership, grip and determination of our Chief Officer team.
In the next few weeks, I will be publishing a new Police and Crime Plan for the next four years. Working with the Chief Constable, I will be ensuring that the crime and community safety issues that matter to you are addressed.
The polls close at midnight on 10th January.
My best wishes to you for a brighter New Year
Katy Bourne OBE
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner