Dorset's Precept Survey Launched
Over the last year, policing in Dorset has gone from strength to strength – we are now the sixth safest county in England and Wales (up from 10th), dwelling burglary has gone down by 17%, non-dwelling burglary by 22%, ASB incidents have gone down by 10%, rural crime has reduced by 43% and rural engagement has increased by 33% - and I want all this good work to continue.
Before I go onto precept funding, I would like to tell you a little more about some of the developments, investments, changes, and improvements that have been made in the last year or so.
Across Dorset, Neighbourhood Enforcement Teams have been developed specifically to target those offenders who pose the most risk to our communities. The teams manage and build local intelligence around community concerns and their work has been invaluable in police operations such as Op Viper – where dozens of drugs arrests have been made on the back of information gathered by these teams.
There have been major in-roads made into strengthening neighbourhood policing, with the successful roll-out of the Force’s ASB operation, Op Relentless, which continues to make a difference for Dorset’s communities, augmented by the additional officers recruited as part of the Police Uplift Programme. Op Relentless has also been supported by my own Op Relentless Community Fund – set up to fund solutions to tackle ASB in local areas.
In terms of drug crime, the work of Op Viper and Op Scorpion continue across the county. Op Viper launched in April 2022 and has already been incredibly successful in cracking down on illegal drugs and drug-related crime in Dorset. It brings together a county lines task force and our Neighbourhood Enforcement Teams to drive out drugs from our local communities. Op Scorpion, which launched in March of this year, has seen all five Police and Crime Commissioners and their respective police forces in the South West region work alongside British Transport Police, South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and the charity Crimestoppers to make our region a hostile environment for illegal drug activity. This puts a ring of steel around the South West and complements our robust Dorset approach with Operation Viper.
Considerable activity has been undertaken to address Violence Against Women and Girls. I am pleased to say that Dorset Police is now one of the Op Soteria expansion forces. Op Soteria is a collaboration between criminal justice practitioners and a coalition of the most qualified and talented academics in their fields. The overarching aim is to develop a new operating model for the investigation and prosecution of rape cases, and I look forward to seeing the improvements that being part of this Op will bring to Dorset.
The Government’s Police Uplift Programme is on course in Dorset, and we are set to meet the target of 167 additional officers. The number of officers in the Rural Crime Team has increased three-fold in the last year or so, and I have enabled investment in a rural crime van, which travels to our more isolated rural communities, so that crimes can be reported, and advice and support can be given. In the last year, my office has also set up an online one-stop-shop rural website call Country Watch – dedicated to Dorset and its rural communities.
The Force has also introduced Community Contact Points - pop-up events where you can speak to a police officer from your Neighbourhood Policing Team to report a crime or an incident or discuss issues affecting your community. I will be doing all I can to ensure your voice is heard when it comes to the Force’s review of front office provision across Dorset. My intention is for there to be more front office and engagement provision across the county.
There has been a whole new host of technology brought online in the last year or so - with the sole aim of improving how the police ‘engage and connect’ with the communities they serve – a priority of the Police and Crime Plan.
Investment has been made in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which is the automation of business processes using a 'digital workforce' which when trained, mimics the activities of staff. RPA reduces the amount of time staff spend on repetitive and routine activities, allowing more time to be spent on interaction with the public and jobs requiring a greater degree of complex problem solving or human judgement.
To allow officers to spend more time out in the community, the Force has invested in several key areas of technology including new mobile technology so that officers can record crimes and access existing records directly from their mobile phones reducing the need for them to return to stations. Additional investment has been made in biometric fingerprint readers that connect to mobile devices and allow for verification when a suspect’s identity is in question, something that would previously require a visit to a custody suite to access fingerprint scanners there.
Funding for all this good work is crucial and I have lobbied hard all year in ever changing political circumstances to get more government funding for Dorset. I have made no secret of my frustration that Dorset Police is one of the lowest funded forces in the country and I am absolutely intent on changing that.
The lobbying is working, as for the first time the National Funding Formula will look at issues such as seasonality and sparsity which adversely affects Dorset. We need this fairer split as some forces only have to fund 20% of their activity from precept – Dorset Police needs to fund 50%.
Not only will I be campaigning and lobbying more and more next year on Dorset’s behalf, but I’m also hopeful that the new policing minister will visit our county to meet with me, so I can show him just how hard we are working and what being better funded would mean to our residents and communities.
The government has now announced the budget for policing, which presumes that PCCs will raise the precept by £15 a year. If approved in the new year, this would mean Dorset’s precept – the element of the council tax bill that funds policing – will rise by £15 a year for those living in an average Band D property.
Inflation is currently just under 11% and therefore a £15 precept rise equates to approximately half of the rate of that inflation. Such an increase will mostly ensure that all the good work that I have already mentioned can be maintained. The increase should also allow the Force to overrecruit by an additional 15 police officers.
Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather not have to come to you to ask for funding, but I do want to be able to keep on ensuring success on your behalf. I want to keep on delivering my Police and Crime Plan, the document that contains your policing priorities. I want to be able to say to you in a years’ time that Dorset is one of the top five safest counties, that we have cut crime and ASB even further, that we have driven out even more drugs gangs from our county and that we continue to make Dorset safer than ever before.
Police and Crime Commissioner