‘Not enough’ said about challenges Sussex Police are facing says scrutiny panel

Brad Watson, chairman of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel
Brad Watson, chairman of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel

‘Not enough’ is being said about the challenges Sussex Police are facing - according to a scrutiny body.

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), presented her annual report to the Sussex Police and Crime Panel last Friday July 3.

She spoke about the financial pressures the forced faced, but also highlighted achievements including maintaining current levels of frontline and community support officers.

However members of the panel felt that not enough was being said about what areas Sussex Police is not performing well in and what the PCC was doing to address these issues.

Speaking after the meeting at County Hall in Lewes Brad Watson, chairman of the panel and a West Sussex county councillor said: “While we welcomed the positive report by Mrs Bourne, members of the panel felt that not enough was being said about challenges Sussex Police were facing, the areas where they were not performing well and how the commissioner was addressing these.

“Part of our role is to support the commissioner, but it is important that we properly scrutinise all elements of her work to ensure the role is being carried out effectively.

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner ENGSUS00120120712122102

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner ENGSUS00120120712122102

“During the meeting suggestions were made for other items to be included in the next report, such as areas of pressure for the police and the force’s approach and plans to fight terrorist activity in Sussex.

“Panel members were also keen to know what pressure Mrs Bourne was putting on the chief constable to deal with the increase in so-called legal highs which has already claimed a life in Sussex.

“We were reassured that this was an area already being addressed and the panel asked to be updated on progress.”

Mrs Bourne also welcomed a rise in the number of victims reporting domestic abuse, serious sexual offences, anti-social behaviour and hate crimes – an increase the commissioner says she has actively encouraged, although members of the panel asked how she could be certain that the increase was not due to an increase in the number of such crimes being committed.

Questions were asked of figures presented in the commissioner’s report which suggested the reporting of particular crimes had increased, while the crime rate in Sussex continued to fall.

The commissioner explained that, following a Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary report in 2014 which identified deficiencies in crime reporting within Sussex Police, the chief constable had made efforts to improve the integrity of the recording of crimes.

She argued that increased confidence in Sussex Police had led to a higher reporting and recording rate and not necessarily a higher crime rate.

A report was also given into the efforts to identify and tackle Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

Mr Watson added: “The annual meeting is an opportunity for panel members to question the commissioner on her performance and satisfy themselves that she is achieving the best results for the people of Sussex.

“While those on the panel are representing residents, there is an opportunity for members of the public to ask the commissioner questions relating to her role and we would encourage and welcome their input.

“Questions can be directed to pcp@westsussex.gov.uk or by calling 033 022 22542.”

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