There was lots of media interest over the weekend about the actual number of officers responding to 999 calls diminishing nationally. I am always very conscious about bald statistics as they often add little to a debate and can cloud an important issue.
Looking at the numbers for Kent, it's a really good news story. As those who read this blog know, we have recently - 16 November 2011 to be precise - embarked on a radical new policing model for the county. We now operate a borderless response which means the nearest response officer will be sent to a call despite what policing division they are from.
Since we went over to the new model our performance figures have shown virtually no change in officers responding to calls and getting there quickly. However, statistics are all very well, but it is what is happening on the ground that is important to local people. So, can I say that anyone who needs emergency help and dials 999 will get it? Yes I can. Can I say that the response will be quick? Yes I can. The Police Authority looks closely at all aspects of performance and this is just one that we keep a very close eye on. The people of Kent and those who are passing through who need urgent help should get it and get it quickly, which they do.
You might have seen as well the in the press Kent Police running metal theft operations around the county. I think they are doing an excellent job at tracking down those involved through this targeted approach and the one blitz operations are really shaking things up.
But it's not just the officers on the frontline making a difference. Julie Argent who won our outstanding Kent Police staff award at our Safer Kent Awards event is a real example of behind the scenes work. She has really made an enormous contributing to reduce metal thefts in the county and she has done a magnificent job at building relations with British Transport Police, BT, and UK Power Networks to ensure measures are taken to reduce this type of opportunist crime.
Steps are also being made in forensic marking and we have come a long way. Julie is currently working on a project to ensure all war memorials and plaques in Kent are forensically marked, as well as identifying fly-tipping sites that are at risk. Great job Julie!
Talking of metal thefts I was really pleased that the Authority was well represented at a conference on Metal and Cable Theft last week hosted by the force.
The aim of the conference - that took place at the police college - was to provide information and practical advice to both police officers and representatives from a wide range of partner organisations. The idea was to develop a better understanding of how metal and cable theft affects not only businesses but also individuals and wider communities.
The conference, which was opened by our Chief Constable, Ian Learmonth, explored a range of actions to prevent such thefts and detect offenders through better co-ordinated approaches to law enforcement.
The conference heard keynote presentations from a range of partner organisations including specialists from Kent Police, British Transport Police, BT Open Reach and UK Power Network.
The estimated annual cost of metal theft to British industry is a staggering £770 million. In Kent, theft and handling now accounts for nearly a third of crimes with metal and cable theft making up approximately 10 per cent of all such cases.
In the present economic climate and with precious metal prices spiralling, organised crime networks and other criminals see metal theft as a quick and easy way of making money.
A number of recent high profile incidents illustrate how such crimes deprive communities of essential public services, disrupt communications and even endanger the public.
Thieves routinely target road signs, manhole covers, statues and memorial plaques as well as lead from the roofs of churches and other public buildings. Copper, lead and other semi-precious metals are easily recycled so that creates a criminal market around such materials. In response, the Government plans a range of initiatives including the banning of cash transactions at scrap metal yards.
Kent is well placed to tackle this crime but unfortunately it's often the communities that suffer.
On a personal note: My lovely husband, Tony Barnes, is a veterinary surgeon at a clinic in Folkestone. He is a very quiet, unassuming bloke - well, they do say opposites attract - who was rendered speechless this week when he found out that he had been shortlisted for the UK 2012 Vet of the Year Award! He was stunned, as he had no idea that he had even been nominated, but absolutely delighted and I am really pleased for him. He had better win it though!