THE police force in Worcester is the 'most accountable' and open it has ever been say force leaders who met face-to-face with the public during the first event of its kind in the county.
Barrie Sheldon, the deputy police and crime commissioner for West Mercia Police, and South Worcestershire's superintendent Mark Travis were at the studio in the Hive in Worcester today (Wednesday) to hear concerns about crime, disorder and ant-social behaviour on their watch. The day provided an opportunity for people to meet with the Safer Neighbourhood Team in South Worcestershire, members of Neighbourhood Watch, other police partners and quiz police commanders.
Although few people attended the event at the Hive, Mr Sheldon and Supt Travis sought the views of people in the library itself while PCSOs in the foyer directed people to the informal talks about what people's priorities are for West Mercia Police which has a budget of £205 million for 2014/15, approved this week.
One of those to attend was Haris Saleem, chairman of the Worcester Muslim Welfare Association. He said: "This is something which I personally think is of benefit to the community and the public generally. It is the first time I have been to an event like this. Worcester is a very peaceful place. There are issues but these issues are everywhere."
Mr Sheldon and his elected boss, police and crime commissioner Bill Longmore, are exploring better links with young people through an engagement strategy, providing more opportunities for young people which Mr Saleem welcomed. Mr Saleem said he would like to see more people from the Asian community represented in the police force. Supt Travis said recruitment had now been brought forward which meant that officers were ready to take over from those who had retired straight away, allowing a 'seamless' transition rather than a gap until a replacement officer was found.
Paul Deneen, community ambassador co-ordinator, said: "This is a very important initiative and it is not happening in other areas. I think we are a leader in this sort of initiative and scheme. It provides feedback to the chief constable on views about the policing of communities." There will be six of these events across Worcestershire each year - three in the south of the county and three in the north. He said: "It does make the police more accountable than they have ever been before. I think there is a real opportunity to get people's feedback, to talk to people and find out what they're thinking."
Mr Sheldon stated his commitment to maintain frontline police officers with £25 million taken from £49 million reserves to offset savings the force has to make. Force commitments include spending £5 million over the next five years on tackling cyber crime, rural crime, business crime and rural crime and another £7 million spent on invest to save, including developing the use of technology for the force over the next three years which he says will allow savings to be made more quickly. Visitors also had the chance to better protect themselves, their homes and property with timer switches, personal attack alarms and purse bells thanks to Worcester City Council's community safety manager, Jude Langton.