To receive a presentation from the Essex Police District Commander, Lewis Basford on current policing and crime issues in the District.
The Essex Police’s District Commander for Brentwood and Epping Forest, Chief Inspector Lewis Basford attended the Select Committee to update Member’s on the current policing and crime issues in the District.
The Chief Inspector advised that he would like to discuss some of the local trends that have happened over the last year and where progress had been made since his last update to the Select Committee. Some issues were still prevalent and went hand in hand with the Safety Community Partnership work and he would like to discuss some of the significant work that had been going on.
Looking at crime as a total in the Epping Forest district, there had been a 6% increase in crime over the last 12 months, that compared to an increase for the force of Essex as a whole of 16.8%, therefore there was a 10.8% difference between the force increase against the district increase. Just to put a bit of a health warning around that increase, a lot of that increase would be down to better crime recording. You will see from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) that the recent report on Essex Police’s crime recording standards only put Essex, as one of the two forces out of the 42 forces, that have been looked at so far as excellent as part of that review by the HMICFRS in terms of our crime recording, in essence what was coming through was being recorded correctly. There were very robust procedures in place to ensure every crime was correctly recorded.
In previous years and part of that evaluation there would be multiple crimes within one incident, where in the past we would have created one crime per phone call but now every crime involved in an incident was now reported therefore one call could include two or three crimes and this in turn saw an increase in crime statistics.
One of the most challenging elements that still continued to be around the district and was one of my biggest concerns, was the public perception of policing. Slight increases have been received in the last 12 months based on our data in terms about what the public think in Epping Forest around the policing in terms of do we understand what the public want to see around our priorities and what visibility do the public want to see around policing the district.
Although we have seen slight increases in the public perception, which was good news, but we were still not at the levels of other districts in Essex who have seen significantly greater signs of public satisfaction in policing and visibility.
One of the biggest problems to tackle was that for every one negative comment about crime in the district and from reports that we have seen, you have to back that up with five pieces of good work to contradict that one piece of negative work.
A lot of the work for the next 12 months will go into how the police look and work with local parishes, local volunteer groups and third-party sectors around getting the perception of Essex police right and about getting the right messages out to the public.
The Chief Inspector stated that in the last week he had chaired two meetings around engagement, one was a forum looking at how Essex police actually started to engage with what the public were asking to see and the second meeting was with the faith leaders across Epping Forest. At this meeting one of the comments was ‘if you looked at certain public websites, you would think that Epping Forest was at war’. I sat back and thought yes it sounds like we were at war and that nicely gets me into the figures around the perception of how safe Epping Forest was compared to other parts of the district in Essex and our surrounding borders with the Metropolitan Police.
Burglaries and Robberies
Over the last 12 months Epping Forest had 396 less burglaries than in the previous 12 months. There was currently a 6.3% reduction in robberies against the force average of a 3.6% increase and when you look at some of the districts that border Epping Forest such as Harlow who saw a 25% increase in robberies in the last 12 months. The metropolitan area of Redbridge had also seen a significant increase.
Motor Vehicle Theft
In relation to the theft of motor vehicles when you look at some of the trends in motor theft the Epping Forest district had increased by 3%.
Following the release of the annual report some of questions that have been asked were around sexual offences and we have seen a 3.8% increase in reporting sexual offences in the last 12 months and that’s against a force increase of 21.5%.
Violence and Domestic Violence
In relation to violence against a person the force saw a 23.3% increase. In Epping Forest district there was a 29% increase, therefore above the average of the force. Around 50% of these crimes reported were domestic violence and the other 50% were out in the public domain. When those figures were broken down, the highest proportion were for victim known offenders, where known victims were assaulted by known offenders and not randomly attacked by an unknown offender.
In relation to antisocial behaviour we have seen a 14.2% reduction in incident reported that was 455 less incidents reported we now have them in our community safety teams which have doubled over the last 12 months and they were on call 24/7. That consists of teams of one sergeant and 8 police constables on every day and on some days double lapping so that we will have up to 18 officers on duty every day. Also being increased in the local policing team, which I will reference as the 999-policing team, the average shift size had gone up by three officers per shift over the last 12 months.
The Service Manager Community Resilience, Caroline Wiggins, stated that in the 13 years that she had worked for Epping Forest District Council, it was very rare that she had sat at a meeting where reductions in crime were reported. It was a really great success that burglaries have reduced by 396 in the district. Burglary was so intrusive and people found it very hard to recover from.
In this district car theft was on the increase and this was a concern, the trends most targeted was Land Rovers, Ford Fiestas and transit vehicles. It was important to get the message out to motorists to use a faraday bag and being extra vigilant. Unfortunately, the business venues in the district such as hotels, were being targeted. In the next year going forward work needed to be done with the hotels as they should be doing more to combat car theft.
I was pleased to see the increase in domestic abuse calls because that meant the work we do in the partnership around signposting and awareness raising was working and people in the district were contacting the police earlier so they were coming out as a standard risk and not being reported at the end making it high risk. I would like to offer members some J9 training and I am happy to organise that training.
The Community Safety Hub and the imbedded police officers were really making a difference that increased the community policing team. The work they have done with Epping Forest College and the young students and some of the public engagement work they had been doing over the last few months, we were now starting to build some really strong foundations.
The meeting was then opened up to questions from members.
Councillor S Rackham stated that public perception was a big thing and asked if there were police panels held at the Council on a monthly basis, where members of the public could come in and talk with the police about local issues. I know this has worked in other districts and I think it might be something very useful that residents would engage with.
The Chief Inspector stated that an engagement forum was recently held and at a meeting earlier today analysing the data and feedback that had been received the police would go back to local engagement in terms of panels, Parish and residents groups and intrinsically align them to the daily patrol, for example mapping every single meeting Council, Parish as well as the coffee mornings, church meetings, community groups third party groups, support groups. Residents have advised us that they want local forums with local officer and have contact details of their local officers. Hopefully we will be able to start delivering back on developments and the local officers will then start using the third-party sectors and volunteer groups to start getting the key messages back to local residents.
Councillor S Rackham stated that she noticed in the report, something that concerned her and other Councillors regarding car accidents, she asked if she was correct in thinking that the Epping Forest district was quite high up the scale and what was be done to prevent some of these accidents going forward.
The Chief Inspector advised that victims of crashes actually did not come from the Epping Forest District, they occurred in the Epping Forest District but that was due to the M25 and the M11 being in part of the district. As part of the precept increase for the last financial year there will be a doubling up of the road policing team for Essex and the two bases that the teams will be stationed at were Stanway and Chigwell, therefore there will be a lot more visibility and enforcement on the roads and the road policing team will be up to the numbers there were in 2011.
Councillor D Plummer stated that the last meeting of the Coffee with Cops in Waltham Abbey had quite a large turnout and asked if there was any way to get feedback to the Town and Parish Councils from those meetings.
The Chief Inspector stated that what came out of the Coffee with Cops events was that we have got a lot better at listening and through the network of key groups we will be feeding back information to these groups to get out the messages to residents of the district.
Councillor D Plummer stated that if you looked at the social media websites you would think that nothing was happening in the area but we were under constant assault and he asked if there was any particular reason why the police presence wasn’t more visible in Waltham Abbey town centre. What was happening with County Lines was it having much impact on a particular issue around Waltham Abbey.
The Chief Inspector replied in terms of County Lines in the district was lower than the surrounding districts of Southend, Chelmsford, Basildon Harlow and Colchester were significantly higher that this District. Last year there was a 6-month operation that demolished a lot of the County Lines but others will come in their place.
Councillor J H Whitehouse stated that fewer incidents were being reported as residents felt that it was not worth reporting a crime as nothing was done about it, especially if it was not that serious as there was a very low investigation rate or success rate.
The Chief Inspector agreed with Councillor Whitehouse that there would be a cross section that would not report a crime and people should know better especially larger companies as we have introduced the town teams into Waltham Abbey and Loughton and we were actively going to those companies and saying please report any crimes however small. Our staffing and resources were based on the crime figures. Crimes were investigated on viability for example if your car was broken into, you should always report it, but were we likely to catch the criminal, no not likely.
Councillor J McIvor stated that he represented North Weald and there was a big issue in the area with vehicle theft. There was a lack of apathy reporting these crimes as people tended to report it on social media asking for the public to look out for the vehicles. When a vehicle theft crime was reported, was there any work that went on afterwards in contacting neighbours or intelligence sharing with other neighbouring roads and informing residents of what to do to keep their vehicles safe.
The Chief Inspector advised that vehicle motor theft, as of this year, had was an Essex Police Strategic priority, because of the numbers, the value and the shift towards motor theft in the last 12 months. We were trying to work out the numbers around how the vehicles were being stolen. There were two different types of theft and a faraday bag helped 50% of vehicles stolen as a relay was used to transmit the signal from the key to open and start the vehicle. The other way was the old fashioned method by entering the vehicle because someone hadn’t locked the vehicle properly, it takes about 8 seconds to get into the system to be able to drive that vehicle away. Every vehicle reported as stolen would be looked at through ANPR across Essex to see if the camera had picked it up and what route it had taken. There were two simple techniques, which would prevent around 50% of motor vehicle theft, one was a crook lock and the other a bollard on your driveway.
Councillor D Wixley stated he had heard the Government were employing 20,000 more police officers on the beat and wondered how many were coming into this district.
The Chief Inspector advised that in the first release from the Government there were approximately 135 that were coming to Essex Police. The Chief Officer Group and the PFCC would decide the breakdown and how many would come to this district.
Councillor D Wixley asked if the police still did police speed checks as he hadn’t seen any around for quite some time. He asked who the Essex Road Safety Partnership were as they also set up speed checks and asked if this group had anything to do with the police, where they contracted by the police to carry out speed checks.
The Chief Inspector advised that the Road Safety Partnership were funded through Essex County Council and were made up of police officers and special police constables who dealt with all road safety aspects. They would target roads that were evidence based through crashes and serious injury. Locally around 8-12 speed checks, in terms of monitoring were carried out during the year.
Councillor J Lea stated that her niece’s car was stolen from outside where she worked in Hertfordshire although she lived in Waltham Abbey and asked which police force would deal with the crime.
The Chief Inspector advised the police force in the area where the crime took place would be the force dealing with the crime. You could report the crime in Essex, but the details would be passed on the Hertfordshire Police to deal with.
Councillor I Hadley said earlier you mentioned the recording of crime was changing where one phone call could now record multiple crimes and asked was this just for Essex or across the whole force.
The Chief Inspector replied that this was across the whole force.
Councillor R Brookes stated recently it had been reported that there had been a switch from drink driving to drug driving how could we get this across to society that you shouldn’t drive if under the influence of drugs.
The Chief Inspector replied that over the Christmas period there were more drug drivers caught than there were drink drivers. There had been a big shift, but we were now able to deal with it more accurately by a swipe of the tongue and putting it into a machine at the roadside. When people truly understand the new kits, because they were relatively still new, it will plateau out like drink driving has over the years.
The Chairman said at the beginning of your report you stated that the crime for the force of Essex was 16.8% and the crime for the Epping Forest district was 6% and asked if that was down to the new standards of reporting. Have those standards been rolled out nationally, was that a national incentive and if so had there been a national increase in crime in line with what we have seen in the district and throughout Essex.
The Chief Inspector advised that it was a national roll out under the Home Office. We always compare ourselves to other forces and I also have a demographic of other districts in different forces that were seen as an equivalent to Epping Forest. In 12-18 months’ time I will have a better picture to understand the figures. In terms of Essex, the only element we have seen a increase in, which was disproportionate to any other force was violent crime and a high proportion of violent crime was around county lines.
The Chairman asked if she would be right in saying that 16-22 year olds were a very difficult age for police officers to deal with, especially with that age group committing crimes and how were you going about reaching out to that age group.
The Chief Inspector stated that as a force we have failed by the removal of school officers, so when we talk about 16-22 years olds, a high proportionate of those would have gone through the period where we disengaged, so there was a lack of visibility in terms of how we engaged with schools. From March 2020 school officers will be going back into schools. We have visited every secondary school and every primary school will have been visited by the end of March 2020, we have even visited some nursery schools. We were now engaging with the Epping Forest College on a weekly basis and it was now what we could do going forward.
The Chairman thanked Chief Inspector Basford for his attendance and presentation to the Select Committee. She stated that if there was one thing she was going to take away from this evening it was ‘no matter how small the crime was, report it’.