SURREY’S Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend has welcomed an inspection report for Surrey Police and says she is confident that the Force has already made good progress to address areas of concern.
Issues around the service residents receive when they contact police on 999, 101 and digital 101 were highlighted in a report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services (HMICFRS), which was published today.
Inspectors visited Surrey Police during the summer to carry out a Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (PEEL) review.
They recognised that the Force protects vulnerable people in the county, arrests most offenders quickly, and has a strong focus on guiding perpetrators away from crime.
However, concerns were raised over the length of time it takes for contacts made via 101 and 999 to be answered.
Surrey continues to have the fourth lowest overall crime rate in England and Wales, and remains the safest county in the south-east.
The Commissioner appointed new Chief Constable Tim De Meyer earlier this year, and said that under his leadership, significant improvements to contact are well underway.
The Commissioner said: “I’m really pleased to see that the Force is quick to bring offenders to justice, as well as diverting lower-level offenders away from a life of crime. The innovative ways Surrey Police protects residents and cuts reoffending, particularly through rehabilitation, has also been highlighted.
“The best thing for all potential victims is to prevent crime happening in the first place through the education and rehabilitation of perpetrators, where that is possible. That’s why I’m pleased that inspectors noted the vital role of our Checkpoint Plus service, a deferred prosecution scheme that has an average reoffending rate of 6.3 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for those not going through the scheme. I’m very proud to help fund this fantastic initiative.
“The HMICFRS report says improvements are needed when it comes to the public’s contact with Surrey Police, and I’m pleased to say that those issues are already well in-hand under the new Chief Constable.
“In November, we recorded the best performance for answering 101 calls since late 2020. The time taken to answer a non-emergency call to the Force has dropped by almost 84 per cent when compared with March this year.
“I have been meeting frequently with the Force’s gold groups established to tackle this particular issue, and we are now at a point where we can begin to move temporary contact staff back into their previous roles as contact centre staffing has improved.
“In addition, 88 per cent of 999 calls are now answered within 10 seconds, and call abandonment on 101 has dropped significantly.
“A key issue we are facing is the volume of calls that aren’t related to crime. Surrey Police figures show that fewer than one in five calls – around 18 per cent – is about a crime, and just under 38 per cent are marked as ‘public safety/welfare’.
“Correspondingly, in August, our officers spent more than 700 hours with people in mental health crisis – the highest number of hours ever recorded.
“Next year, we will roll out Right Care, Right Person in Surrey, which aims to ensure those suffering with their mental health are seen by the best person to support them. In most cases, this will be a medical professional. Across England and Wales, it’s estimated that the initiative will save one million hours of officers’ time a year.”
Inspectors also highlighted improvements that need to be made to the recording of crime, including some reports of serious sexual offences.
The Commissioner, who has the reduction of violence against women and girls at the heart of her Police and Crime Plan, said: “Victims of these offences must get all the support they need, and their attackers brought to justice wherever possible.
“Reporting sexual violence to the police is an act of true courage, and the Chief Constable and I are committed to ensuring these survivors will always get the best from their police.
“Inspectors did confirm that Surrey Police is committed to reducing violence against women and girls, and they highlighted some of the programmes available for survivors that are supported by my office.
“I am reassured, as I hope residents will be, that the Chief Constable has made a commitment to ensure every crime reported to the Force is accurately recorded, that all reasonable lines of enquiry are followed, and that criminals are relentlessly pursued.
“There is work to be done, but I know how hard every officer and member of staff in Surrey Police works every day to keep residents safe. Every single one will be committed to making the improvements needed.”