Welcome to my fourth Annual Report as Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police where, as always, there is much to update you on.
"I am delighted to share our progress throughout the last 12 months in this years' report"
Since my last Annual Report, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue has published its annual PEEL (Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy) inspection of the Force, which presented a mixed picture of improvements and identified areas that have required additional focus and attention in the past year.
The last 12 months have continued to be challenging, but I am exceptionally proud of colleagues across Northamptonshire Police and how they policed through the pandemic. We recorded out lowest ever sickness figures during Covid, and despite the undoubted challenges it presented for policing, our service levels were maintained throughout.
As we emerge from two years of lockdowns and disruption, it is vital we remain focused on protecting vulnerable people - something that has always been a priority for me - and not only seek out those at risk in order to protect them, but to work collaboratively with partners to ensure the people of Northamptonshire can thrive.
As a service, we have faced unprecedented challenges. The murder of Sarah Everard rocked the country to its core. The impact of this was felt right across the policing community and has led to a real step change in how forces nationally respond to Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
This report outlines why VAWG will be one of my Matters of Priority for the next three years and how, with the support of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, we have invested further in counter-corruption to ensure that every police officer working in Northamptonshire is appropriately vetted to the standards required, and investigations involving officers and staff are handled swiftly and robustly. Public confidence is paramount and I will continue to invest both internally and externally to protect women and girls from serious harm.
The Force has continued on a healthy trajectory to recruit and train officers in line with the Government's Uplift recruitment programme with commitment and investment from the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner. In Northamptonshire we are on track to increase our establishment by 330 Officers, which will take us to 1,500 by March 2023. (An increase of 28 per cent since October 2019).
I am delighted to have seen a dedicated direct entry detective pathway designed by Northamptonshire Police which has attracted more than 280 applications. This led to a first all-but-one female cohort of new officers and demonstrates a positive shift in terms of gender diversity. Diversity, equality and inclusion remain fundamental to policing and we strive to improve this every day through positive action and by embedding ourselves within the communities we serve.
As outlined in my previous reports, the Force continues to face very singular challenges. Northamptonshire - while a predominantly rural and relatively small county – regularly experiences the types of threat experienced daily by much larger metropolitan forces, in part due to our central location and the many road links that cut through the county.
A great example of this was in November 2021 when officers seized cocaine worth an estimated £78 million from the back of a lorry in Northampton. Thanks to ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), officers were able to trace another vehicle with more drugs inside. In total, 780kg of class A drugs were removed from the county, an extraordinary result.
Tackling Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) remains a Matter of Priority for Northamptonshire Police and we continue relentlessly to pursue criminals, leading to some fantastic results. However, the challenge remains around knife crime, where despite significant improvements in the past 12 months, the Force remains an outlier nationally in comparative performance.
Since my last annual report update, the force has put in place a dedicated surveillance team. The team, consisting of 15 officers, 2 Detective Sergeants and a Detective Inspector are working with EMSOU (East Midlands Specialist Operations Unit) to develop their capability and are able to deploy covert surveillance in addition to mobile capability. The surveillance team are complemented by a surveillance intervention team which undertakes enforcement, static surveillance, arrests and warrant enforcement.
In addition to this, the force has been able to introduce a new mobile Digital Lab, which was obtained through Home Office funding. The vehicle is in effect a fully operable mobile forensic set up, with similar capabilities to a fixed lab, but deployable to crime scenes. It enables Northamptonshire Police to retrieve data swiftly and houses a suite of specialist equipment for the purpose of ensuring a victim or rape or serious sexual offences was never left without a phone for more than 24 hours.
"As ever, I remain committed and confident that Northamptonshire Police will continue to thrive as I head into my fifth year as your Chief Constable"
The Force also faces considerable financial challenges in the coming years. To deliver a high-quality service to the public, we will need to a develop a programme of efficiencies, coupled with smarter investments, to ensure we are responding to the needs of the public and protecting people from harm. Crime is evolving at significant pace so it is important we capitalise on the technology now available not only to adapt to modern life and communication, but to get ahead of criminals, who are increasingly moving to online crime, such as fraud and child sexual exploitation, to prey on the most vulnerable in society.
Finally, I am delighted to document our performance throughout the last 12 months in this year’s report. In April 2021 I set the force 24 strategic outcomes against our Matter of Priority for the financial year ending March 2022, and thanks to strong leadership and determination across the Force at every rank and level, we achieved almost all those outcomes.
As ever, I remain committed and confident that Northamptonshire Police will continue to thrive as I head into my fifth year as your Chief Constable. Northamptonshire is a beautiful county and the staff and officers across the Force continue to work incredibly hard to be visible and to keep you safe.