To receive an update from Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Wilkinson OBE, new Chief Constable Catherine Roper and Inspector Peter Foster.
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Philip Wilkinson OBE, Chief Constable Catherine Roper, Inspector Pete Foster and Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Mark Cook were in attendance to provide an update.
The PCC was pleased to report that Calne Police Station would not be closing, but would be refurbished to become the home of the Rural Crime Team and be used by the local neighbourhood team. Similarly, the custody suite in Melksham was due to undergo a £3.5 million refurbishment to ensure that it met Home Office standards. Furthermore, he explained that discussions were ongoing about purchasing six acres of land near Old Sarum and Salisbury Park and Ride to set up a base in the south of the county. The PCC stressed that purchase of the land was not yet complete and that and proposals would be subject to planning. However, he was optimistic that he would be able to make an announcement in the coming weeks. He also noted that it might be possible to open a custody suite at the Salisbury site but that would be dependent on the operational requirements identified by the Chief Constable.
The Chief Constable introduced herself to the Area Board, explaining that she was new to the role. She spoke about her experience serving in the Metropolitan Police and stated that she was here to listen and looked forward to working with local communities in Wiltshire. She then outlined three key areas of focus for her as she took on the role, safer public spaces, violence, and burglary. She stated that she was working hard to bring the force out of special measures and that lots of preparatory had been put in place.
The Inspector introduced himself to the Area Board, explaining that he had taken over responsibility for the local community police team, and local 999 response services, in January. He highlighted that a new management system was in place that improved accountability so that he was the line manager for six teams. He felt that the new system had already led to an improvement in the code of practice and investigative standards. He explained that he had a police officer for each town and that a sergeant was allocated to cover Calne and Corsham.
During the discussion, points included:
· The Area Board thanked the PCC, Chief Constable and Inspector for the update.
· The PCC noted that they had employed three new Speed Enforcement Officers to assist Community Speed Watch (CSW) teams and were making better use of the information from speed indicator devices. He highlighted that more tickets were issued in January than last year and that prosecution rates had gone up by 68 percent.
· Praise was given for the recent work undertaken to improve road safety given concerns about switching off the fixed speed cameras in the county in 2010 and the relatively low number of speed tickets issued since when compared to other authority areas.
· Cllr Rees from Calne Wilthout Parish Council reported that he had received a letter explaining that they were ineligible for a CSW team in Derry Hill, but that they were receiving help from John Derryman, the PCC’s CSW Co-ordinator.
· In response to a request for more bobbies on the beat, the Chief Constable noted that they were trying to increase the visibility of officers. She emphasised the importance of having people in the right place at the right time and of tackling anti-social behaviour across the county.
· Richard Tucker, Chairman of Bremhill Parish Council, raised concerns about increased traffic, caused by the closure of Lyneham Banks, leading to more speeding in the area. He explained that they were in the process of purchasing a speed indicator device. In response the PCC said that Bremhill Parish Council were welcome to contact his office for assistance with establishing a CSW team.
· Cllr Pearce-Kearney praised a local police office for helping to get a lost child he found back to their parents.
· In response to a query about what new initiatives were being put in place to improve mental health provision within the service, the PCC explained that had conducted a review of how they handled people with mental health issues. A team of mental health professionals were permanently stationed in the call centre and were able to advise officers out on patrol.
· Inspector Foster highlighted that the force was working more closely with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) and had improved training throughout the force.
· The Area Board’s Older and Vulnerable People’s representative, Diane Gooch, said she would welcome engagement with the police at their events, such as the dementia group on Tuesday mornings in the town hall.
· It was reported that PSCO Mark Cook helped to engage with younger people at school visits. Inspector Foster had also recently attended a community café in Chippenham where a knit and natter group was taking place.
· The Chief Constable stated that improving community engagement was one of her priorities, including talking to people and communities in places that they have not visited as often in the past.