By Harrison Burridge
Wiltshire’s top police bosses have welcomed the exposure given to the hidden demands on modern-day policing after a BBC documentary aired last night.
Panorama’s Police Under Pressure looked at the main issues being faced by four of the UK’s police forces – increasing demand on their services from the public, coupled with rapidly reducing funds from central government and growing shortages in experienced staff.
Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire and Swindon’s Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable Kier Pritchard have joined forces to echo comments made in the programme and to explain to the county’s residents that the force is acutely aware of these pressures and is tackling them head on.
Mr Macpherson plans to write to the new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, and urge him to reflect on the low level of funding he allocates to police Wiltshire compared with other police areas. He will also ask him to consider protecting the grant it pays to PCCs, in cash terms, and continue next year to allow PCCs to raise monthly council tax contributions by £1 per household.
He will add that policing in Wiltshire had seen the second highest increase nationally in demand on services, much of it non crime related.
Mr Macpherson said: "Wiltshire isn’t immune to the same policing pressures faced by every force up and down the country. We have seen upward shifts in crime and are responding to more demand from the public than ever before - but spend less per head of population than other forces across England and Wales.
“Much of what our staff deal with is predominantly non-crime related and we see demand on our services increase as other public services in the county feel the pinch in funding too.
“We are a small force, covering largely a rural area, but the many of the issues we are dealing with are imported from the major urban areas. We need to be alive to the dangers of knife crime, dangerous drug networks, modern day slavery and sexual exploitation as emerging national threats.
“Our Force continues to do remarkably well with the resources available but there is only so far the budget will stretch. We are using what we have efficiently and resourcefully while meeting complex policing needs – and that has been echoed by the HMICFRS in last year’s round of inspections, where we received consistent ‘good’ gradings.
“Both myself and the Chief Constable will ensure our force makes it harder for criminals to operate and exploit vulnerable people while also looking after the needs of the victim – making sure they aren’t lost or forgotten in the process.”
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said balancing the demand from the public, the changing nature of crime and stretched resources was a battle faced by Wiltshire Police.
He added: “The nature of modern day policing means we are dealing with a rising demand and pressure on our resources at a time when budgets are tight.
“This is not just an issue here in Wiltshire, but is a constant battle for all Forces up and down the country.
“We are constantly having to assess how best to utilise our police officers, staff and volunteers to respond to the needs of our communities, the changing nature of policing demand and victims of crime.”
Just this week, Wiltshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner launched their own awareness campaign, Beyond The Beat, to try and raise awareness of the demands on police time and resources in 2018 that the public wouldn’t ordinarily see.
The summer-long campaign will highlight the less visible elements of policing, such as child sexual exploitation, cybercrime, mental health and modern day slavery.
Mr Macpherson said: “It is time to shine a light on the harm that is often hidden from the community and it’s time to talk about the complex role the police have across policing in trying to meet the traditional, and modern, threats the public face.
“The reality is that the Police cannot tackle this alone and need to draw upon the strength of communities and partners to play an equal part, especially across prevention and safeguarding people who are vulnerable to crime and criminal exploitation.
“I want to reassure the people of Wiltshire and Swindon that the Police in Wiltshire are committed to fighting crime and protecting the public and offering the best possible service to victims.”
You can join the conversation by following @wiltshirepolice and @PCCWiltsSwindon and using the #BeyondtheBeat.