By Myles Cook
THIS column is another of my three part blogs with the bonus being that all three items are based around law and order. This is more of an information sharing piece but I do have something to say on the Police and Crime Commissioner election.
Firstly, I attended the Independent Advisory Group meeting at the Civic Offices on 14 November to see what the group was all about. The IAG was set up following a damning report into the lack of community engagement in the Metropolitan Police and the problems that that caused. The report found that the police in the London area did not know what was going on in the community because they were not talking to the residents of the area. This, of course, was a problem that occurred beyond the London area but it was in that area that violence ensued.
The job of the IAG is to help the police pinpoint problems in the community by engaging directly with the residents, giving the police an idea of the diverse nature of the resident community and the inherent problems that may arise from it. Members of the IAG also report on things that may increase the likelihood of crime taking place (such as poor street lighting) and on any increase in tensions or incidents within their area.
One of the interesting facts to emerge from the meeting is that the fear of crime is actually higher than the actual incidents of crime so I think that that is something to be optimistic about.
Frankly, I was impressed that Essex Police engage with the community in such a way and the meeting was very informative although part of the meeting was for members of the IAG only as some of the information that comes up in meetings is of a sensitive nature. One thing that was obvious to me was that the IAG member only part of the meeting seemed to have a fairly low number of attendees; whether that was due to the public part of the meeting over-running or simply the fact that there is only a few members at present is a matter I cannot comment on. However, the public meeting was used as a recruiting drive as well so hopefully the IAG will have picked up a few more members.
If you are interested in joining the IAG, the group welcomes new members throughout the year and you can contact them on Safer.Thurrock@thurrock.gov.uk to get details of the group and a form to register as a member. Do think about it as the police cannot do their job without local engagement.
Secondly, a presentation was given by Graham Carey at the IAG meeting on the subject of hate crime which was informative and included some information that really needs to be disseminated so here goes…
The Home Office definition of hate crime is “any crime where the perpetrator’s hostility or prejudice against an identifiable group of people is a factor in determining who is victimised”. This is a reasonable definition but can be considered a little confusing for the general public because, although you may find yourself a victim of an incident, the police have strict guidelines on what is or is not a recordable crime. This problem explains the statistics being split between ‘hate crime’ and ‘hate incidents’.
However, for the purposes of reporting, consider the incident a hate crime if the victim or anyone else thinks it is a hate crime. The police will make the determination on whether it is a recordable crime or just a recordable incident.
If you do report a hate crime, always state very carefully that you are reporting a hate crime and use that term. This is important because hate crimes are handled differently by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service than ‘ordinary’ crimes.
The police have a duty to record all instances of hate crime and hate incidents. The recording of hate incidents can be an indicator of the approach of a possible flashpoint leading to a recordable hate crime so all incidents are treated seriously. Reported incidents also provide a broad indicator of social tensions, the general well-being of the community and the cohesion, or lack thereof, within the community.
If you have been the victim of a hate crime or hate incident and feel ill-at-ease with reporting it at the police station, you can report it online at www.report-it.org.uk. In the future, some organisations will become third party reporters who will fill in the online report on your behalf and I will inform you of the names of those organisations as I get them.
Finally, we had the election for the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex last month and the voter turnout was appalling. I did not bother to vote because I am against the further politicisation of the police; however, there is the fact that details about the actual duties of a PCC were not made very clear to the general public and, as with most political elections, the candidates did not bother to go around to earn the votes of the electorate. In fact, I received only two flyers – one from the Labour candidate, Val Morris-Cook, and the other from the UKIP candidate. Yes, the information on all the candidates was online but, I am sorry but, if you do not work for my vote, I am not going to vote at all.
Unfortunately, we now have another incidence of the minority deciding on who should represent us, making the whole process rather dubious. How can a result decided by a minority be considered democratic even if everyone was entitled to vote and the majority decided not to vote? Is it the Government’s fault for not explaining the role of the PCCs properly or is it the candidate’s reluctance to fight for your vote? Or is it the fault of the electorate for being so apathetic? I will let you decide.
Until next time…
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