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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

What are Police and Crime Commissioners’ priorities?

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Revolving Doors Agency has analysed all the current Police and Crime plans to shed a light on priority issues.

Revolving Doors Agency has recently (6 December 2017) published a review of all Police and Crime Plans across England and Wales.  These plans are the key public document setting out Police and Crime Commissioners’ priorities for tackling crime in their local area, and represent an opportunity to address entrenched disadvantage that can fuel the cycle of crisis and crime.

The review explores how Police and Commissioners (PCCs) address the issue of people trapped in the ‘revolving door’, who as a result of homelessness, poor mental health and substance misuse, come into repeated contact with police and courts, and how they support young adults to grow out of crime. The review also includes an interactive map which compares the police and crime plans across local areas.

The review

Since the election of the first Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in November 2012, PCCs have emerged as influential leaders at a local and national level. Faced with the difficult challenge of balancing limited resources while meeting constantly changing local needs, they have shown a willingness to innovate and to take risks. One of the pivotal aspects of the role is that PCCs are not only responsible for holding the police to account, setting police budgets and priorities and, ultimately, hiring and firing chief constables, but also for the many aspects of the ‘and crime’ part of their title.

In many respects, the ‘and crime’ part of the role interests Revolving Doors Agency at least as much as the ‘police’ part. It is in this area that PCCs have shown an appetite for dealing with difficult local problems, at individual and community level, through the commissioning of services and through thinking at systems level. Moreover, some have used the role in other ways, including using their public profile to bring together stakeholders and fellow local leaders from other sectors to respond to local need and find creative ways of addressing often deep-seated problems. Many also contribute at strategic level to the functioning of other systems through, for example, representation on local authority health and wellbeing boards.

This document presents a review of both the current and the most recent previous Police and Crime Plans for each PCC – the principal document that sets out for the public what PCCs are prioritising in their areas. The aim was to both explore how the plans reflect the breadth of multiple and complex needs (the key area of interest for Revolving Doors), as well as to other specific groups, such as young adults (to inform the work of the Transition to Adulthood Alliance) and women, to provide a tool for identifying the PCCs’ areas of interest.

The plans were examined on three different levels: how needs of the population in a PCC area were assessed; what needs were identified; and what priorities have been established as a result to meet these needs, reduce crime and prevent harm.

Key findings

The review demonstrates that many PCCs recognise these multiple disadvantages and their relationship to crime, and across the country are willing to innovate and take risks in order to prevent and address crime.

Key findings include:

  • An overwhelming majority of police and crime plans identified domestic violence (95%), mental health (95%), and substance misuse (88%) as the key vulnerabilities in their local areas;
  • Whilst two thirds (65%) of PCCs recognise the needs of young people in transition to adulthood, it is disappointing that this represents a drop from previous plans (86%) given the evidence that appropriate interventions at this time can mean young offenders are more likely to stop offending;
  • In comparison to former plans there was a decreased reference to vulnerable families in assessment of needs (88% in old plans; 49% new plans);
  • Despite housing being identified as a local need in a third of the plans, it rarely appears as a strategic priority (5%);
  • Whilst 88% of PCCs recognise substance misuse as a key vulnerability, it is disappointing that this has decreased from 98% in previous plans, given the context of rising numbers of drug-related deaths across the country.

This overall picture is positive one – however, the ambition to address the needs of people facing entrenched disadvantage varies across the country.

In the graphic below, the purple line shows the prevalence of particular issues as priorities in the new Police and Crime Plans, the green line refers to the previous set of plans.

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