Police Commissioner candidates set out policing priorities
Eight of the ten candidates battling to be elected to the new American-style post of Police and Crime Commissioner have faced voters.
The Any Questions-style debate took place in Methodist Central Hall, Plymouth yesterday.
Members of a sizeable audience put questions to the panel in a Radio Devon event hosted by David Fitzgerald.
Two candidates – Plymouth publican Tam Macpherson and UK Independence Party candidate Robert Smith – did not attend the meeting.
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William Morris, an Independent, told the public debate that towns in Devon and Cornwall are “out of control” and vowed to crack down on Plymouth’s “alcohol culture”.
Mr Morris said: “Rural crime is on the increase, but the towns are out of control and I am very concerned about Plymouth.
“If I have to recruit large numbers of Special Constables to deal with night-time crime I will do that.”
Mr Morris, from Penzance, said he would introduce a zero-tolerance policy for street crime where it is a problem, and would crack down on “the alcohol culture” in Plymouth and Torbay.
In response to a question by Fiona McNamara, Plymouth Labour candidate Nicky Williams said: “You can’t have a one size fits all approach. We have to find local solutions to local problems, and local people are best placed to deliver this.”
She said her first priority would be to campaign for a fairer funding deal from the Government, to take into account the region’s geography and the high number of summer visitors.
Ms Williams said fear of crime was an enormous issue. “People want to feel safe. I would engage with the local community and hear their views.”
Tony Hogg, Conservative, former commanding officer of RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, said he would cut crime by bringing policing back closer to the public, and he would champion victim and minority groups.
“There is a fear of crime in rural areas and they are concerned that policing is concentrated in high-crime areas like Plymouth.”
In a show of hands the majority of the audience indicated that they felt safe on their streets, but almost half said they had been the victims of crime.
Ivan Jordan, an Exeter-based Independent, said: “For every crime there is a victim, and it’s actually the opinion of the victim that is paramount.”
Mr Jordan said: “I stand for the prevention of crime before it happens and an effective police service without privatisation.”
PCSOs won widespread backing from the panel. Mr Jordan said they were “popular and doing a fantastic job”.
Brian Blake, the Lib Dem candidate and a former policeman, who lives at Yealmpton, said visible police patrols had shrunk and police stations had been closed.
“Public opinion matters and that’s the whole reason this process [the election] has been set up. Public opinion has to win, over the views of the Commissioner.”
He said the Chief Constable had to have operational autonomy.
John Smith, an Independent from Teignmouth, said: “We need to listen to victims and reassure them that something will be done.
“I promise that I will maintain an effective, community-based police service and clamp down on anti-social behaviour.”
Mr Smith said there was a tendency to focus policing in the cities where most people live, but that rural crime was increasing. He would look at introducing “special Special Constables” for rural areas.
Brian Greenslade, former Lib Dem leader of Devon County Council standing as an Independent, said the estimated £70million cost of holding the election across England and Wales at a time of austerity was “bonkers”.
He said he would run a balanced budget and claw back £5million from the Government. Mr Greenslade said he would maintain the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in the face of Government funding cuts.”
Graham Calderwood, Independent, a solicitor from West Cornwall, said he would get more officers back on the beat by introducing specialist interviewing teams.
Mr Calderwood said he wanted more public participation and co-operation to help improve the police force.
“We have got to think more about victims, but what the police can do stops at the courts,” he said.
“Opinion polls suggest that victims like to confront the perpetrators.”
Who gets your vote? Read interviews with all 10 candidates throughout next week beginning on Monday with Brian Greenslade, Independent, and Robert Smith, UK Independence Party.