Mayor - Everybody needs good neighbours

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“NEIGHBOURHOOD policing is the bedrock of everything Cleveland Police does.”

That is a direct quote from both the Chief and Assistant Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, Sean Price and Sean White, at the Neighbourhood Policing awards ceremony last week.

I had the pleasure of attending the awards and to hear them both speaking so supportively of neighbourhood policing was like music to my ears.

It was extremely reassuring that the police force now put neighbourhood policing right up at the top of their priorities and with so much uncertainty around future funding and cuts to the public sector.

I am sure everyone will share my delight that their local neighbourhood policing teams will continue to deliver the excellent policing service to which we have now become accustomed.

It was just over six years ago that I sat in the office of the then chair of the police authority and convinced him that Hartlepool should be a pilot for neighbourhood policing.

He took some persuading though but, in the end, he trusted Hartlepool to make it work. Since then, it is probably fair to say, we have led the way nationally in the field.

We quickly integrated neighbourhood policing with neighbourhood management and even simple things like sharing offices made a huge difference to how we delivered the service.

The facts speak for themselves – crime levels in Hartlepool have been reducing year on year in just about every category and overall crime is at the lowest level it has ever been.

Probably more importantly, crime detection levels in Hartlepool have been steadily rising over recent years and are currently at the highest levels on record.

In just eight years, Cleveland Police has gone from being the worst performing police force in the country to now being the best.

There are many factors that assist in improving the police performance in Hartlepool but neighbourhood policing is one of the greatest.

People see a uniformed presence on the streets and gradually get to know their local bobbies.

Confidence and trust in their police officers and PCSOs then begin to form and once that trust has been established, people will start to share information with the police.

They will become more active in trying to help the police improve their local area and there have even been examples of local residents giving evidence in court against unruly neighbours because of the confidence that they have gained in the police.

There is one statistic however, that proves beyond all reasonable doubt that neighbourhood policing is working in Hartlepool and the wider Cleveland area for that matter and that is the measure of public confidence in the police force.

Some 89.2 per cent of the public has confidence in the police and again, that is the best in the country.

This figure has rocketed over that last few years as neighbourhood policing has become embedded in communities.

It is actually a very simple equation in that, the more trust and confidence the public has in the police, the more likely they are to share information and assist the officers in their duty.

The more this happens, the more likely the police catch the criminals.

The more criminals who are banged to rights, the less likely there will be any crime.

It all sounds very easy but neighbourhood policing can only be really effective if everyone is signed up to the concept and there is true partnership working from all of the agencies concerned as well as the public.

I won’t roll out my cliché about Hartlepool being the biggest village in the country, however it is true to say that partnership working in Hartlepool is extremely strong when it comes to community safety and policing.

Our size and demographics make things much easier when it comes to integrating new ideas and new ways of working.

The real key to success though is the people who are out on the ground delivering the services.

The council, the Fire Brigade, probation and others all play a big part in neighbourhood policing and each have dedicated staff members committed to making it work.

The people at the sharp end of the service, of course, are the police officers and PCSOs who work tirelessly in their areas to meet the needs of the residents and help make each area a better place.

It is fantastic that Cleveland Police recognise this dedication and effort with an annual awards ceremony to celebrate some of the achievements of the neighbourhood officers who have excelled in their duties.

Hartlepool was particularly well represented at this year’s awards and I would like to extend my congratulations to all of Hartlepool’s winners and my sincere thanks to every member of our neighbourhood policing teams throughout the town who continue to a fabulous job and help to make Hartlepool a very safe place to live.

l Hartlepool’s winners were: Neighbourhood Police Officer of the Year, PC 1144 Keith Robinson; Neighbourhood PCSO of the Year, PCSO 7989 David Fowler; Neighbourhood Special Constable of the Year, SC 4485 Artur Vishnevskiy and Neighbourhood Team of the Year, Stranton Team.