Presentation from Chief Superintendent Mike O’Hara, West Midlands Police
Councillor Kelly, Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner and Member of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board, and Councillors A Khan and P Akhtar, Cabinet Member and Deputy Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities have been invited to the meeting for the consideration of this item
The Committee received a presentation from Chief Superintendent Mike O’Hara, West Midlands Police concerning WMP2020 (West Midlands Police Transformation Programme) with particular reference to the current situation in Coventry. The presentation aimed to answer four questions posed by the Chair, Councillor Brown. Councillor Kelly, Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner and Member of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board and Councillor P Akhtar, Deputy Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities attended the meeting for the consideration of this item.
The presentation referred to the recent challenges for West Midlands Police: the significant funding reduction; increasing challenges from terrorism, cyber crime and hidden crimes; approximately 3,000 fewer people in WMP; and the increasing use of digital tools. The strategic drivers for change resulting in WMP2020 were highlighted.
The Committee were informed that WMP2020 was an intensive four year change programme that would change the face of policing across the West Midlands. It was designed to help the Police stay one step ahead of criminals enabling the force to be fit for future challenges. Projects included the introduction of body worn video; digital experience for citizens (online incident reporting and tracking); data driven insight; and intelligence. Changes to the working arrangements for the Response Team and the Investigations Team were highlighted along with the aims for Neighbourhood Policing.
The Committee were provided with detailed information on the Coventry workforce, with particular reference to the neighbouring policing establishment, strength and deployable numbers. The numbers of sergeants, police constables and police community support officers assigned to the individual wards were highlighted. There had been a 5% reduction in this establishment between 2013 and 2018.
The presentation provided detailed statistics on recorded crime in the city which showed a recent significant rise in residential burglary. A comparison with other West Midlands areas was provided which highlighted the scale of the problem. The figures for violent offences showed a relatively stable position, while the figures for robbery showed a further significant increase for the city. The statistics concluded with the local and the comparison figures for total recorded crimes with Coventry showing an 11.8% increase on the previous year, the increase being driven by burglary and vehicle crime. Additional information was also provided on the increasing numbers of calls being made to the service.
Chief Superintendent O’Hara informed the Committee of his priorities indicating that robbery was his number one priority, with the volume of burglary offences also remaining a concern. Also the current average of 61 offences per day across Coventry was a position which needed to be improved. He set out how these challenges were to be tackled.
The presentation concluded with the support that could be provided to the police by local communities and the six year programme for the estate which would see the closure of three police bases in the city.
Members raised a number of issues arising from the presentation and responses were provided, matters raised included:
· Clarification about the workforce figures including the reasons and funding for vacant posts
· A detailed explanation about the settings of the bands for the crime statistics
· How an increase in crime statistics was not always bad news, since increased reporting could be the cause, particularly for domestic violence
· The frequency of the use of the crime statistics
· Further information about the urban street gangs in the city
· A concern that calls to the service were being ignored
· Whether the rise in burglaries and robberies was due to the reduced police presence on the street, including details of the staffing situation in St Michaels Ward
· The different approaches being used to target silent crime
· Additional information on emergency and non-emergency call handling response times
· The monitoring of vacancies and sickness etc
· Areas of work which the police shouldn’t be involved with
· Details about Street Weekends and how additional support could be provided
· Details of an e-mail sent from a constituent informing of teams of young men harassing young women in the vicinity of the Sky Dome and how could the Council work with the police to stop this behaviour and other City Centre problems
· Information on Pub Watch and the preparation works for the City of Culture 2021 to ensure that visitors felt safe when in Coventry
· The opportunities to improve lighting levels in areas where problems were occurring
· The importance of providing vulnerable residents with a visit following a crime rather than expecting them to report a crime on-line
· An acknowledgement of the importance of reporting all low level crime to be able to build up the bigger picture
· The effectiveness of the current Public Space Protection Orders
· Any proposals for recruit special constables in Coventry
· Information about the austerity cuts to the West Midlands Police budget compared to other areas of the country
· The implications for Police Officers of the reduction of 1,000 back office jobs across the West Midlands area
· Further details about the reasoning for closing three police bases in the city including Willenhall (Coventry South).
RESOLVED that the content of the presentation concerning WMP2020, with particular reference to the current situation in Coventry, and the issues raised by members be noted.