Last month I met Inspector Nikki Roberts, who leads South Shropshire policing, to discuss steps being taken to prevent and tackle crime in our communities.
In light of the Prime Minister’s pledge to increase police officer numbers by 20,000, I am determined to see rural areas like Shropshire benefit – and was encouraged to hear that the Chief Constable is allocating an additional 10 substantive police constables to South Shropshire. The result of this increase is an effectively a 50% increase in the safer neighbourhood teams in Ludlow and Bridgnorth on each shift – a very welcome increase! This follows a record 56 officers joining West Mercia Police in July alone, as part of recruitment of 115 new officers.
West Mercia Police are also taking encouraging steps to help prevent rural crime, an issue which I know West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion takes seriously. So I was pleased to meet the We Don’t Buy Crime officer, who was promoting use of Smart Water to Craven Arms’ Mayor and Shropshire Councillor, and encouraging adoption across communities in Shropshire following lead taken in Cleobury Mortimer where domestic burglary was reduced dramatically.
Smart Water individually marks goods of value with a unique identifier which is invisible to the naked eye, but is revealed under Ultra Violet light, and links the goods marked direct to the household of the owner. Each West Mercia officer carries a UV torch so can look for smart water marked goods whenever suspicious of a theft.
This has proven successful in reducing and disrupting the market for stolen goods, protecting homes and possessions by making them less attractive to the would-be criminal. So West Mercia are also looking to extend this scheme to cover farms, to combat a recent spike east of the A49 in recent months.
I am sure many will also welcome the additional powers being given to Police under stop and search through a nationwide pilot, with more than 8,000 police officers authorised to use enhanced stop and search powers, as part of Government efforts to crack down on violent crime. While knives are used in fewer serious crime in West Mercia compared to the national average (4% rather than 6%), and indeed is far below the worst hotspots for knife crime like certain parts of London and Birmingham, this is welcome step to tackle a growing problem in society, particularly for young people.
The new government has also outlined in its first month plans to review sentencing for the most serious offenders, including not letting prisoners out automatically part-way through a sentence and reviewing how to break the cycle of repeat offending. In light of anticipated increase demand for caseloads, the Justice Secretary has announced a further £85 million for the Crown Prosecution Service to build capacity over the next 2 years, with an extra £2.5 billion investment to create 10,000 extra prison places.
I hope this renewed focus on tackling and preventing crime, both nationally and in south Shropshire, will help make streets safer in communities across the UK.