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Reporting local life since 1854

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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PAGE SIX

Officers will deal with more incidents by telephone after £480,000 review

COPS TOLD TO MAKE FEWER ARRESTS

‘REDUCED RESOURCES’: Chief Constable Mike Cunningham.

BY ALEX CAMPBELL

alex.campbell@thesentinel.co.uk

POLICE in Staffordshire have been told to make fewer arrests, deal with more reported crimes over the telephone and not respond to as many incidents. The new policy means incidents including low-level anti-social behaviour and neighbour disputes will be dealt with by councils rather than police. And more offenders will be given penalty notices rather than being formally arrested. Senior officers have come up with the plan after paying consultants KPMG £480,000 to carry out an 18-week review of the force.

The firm was recruited to help the force cope with the loss of 300 officers and civilian staff since April 2010 and the need to save £38 million by 2015. The changes mean: ■ Officers must look at all available alternatives to making arrests to reduce the amount of police time spent on suspects and slash the bill for keeping detainees in custody. Each arrest can take up to eight hours and officers are being encouraged to consider community resolutions, street bail, penalty notices and inviting voluntary attendance for interview instead; ■ Police will attend fewer incidents, leaving

call centre staff to use greater “professional discretion” on which reports are most important and need a response within the 60-minute target. They will consider the threat level of the incident, the vulnerability of the caller and ‘investigation opportunities’. Low priority callers will get appointments for a later date; ■ A 21-strong custody investigation team will charge or caution more suspects shortly after arrest to cut the number of people granted police bail; ■ A team of 12 constables has been created to conduct preliminary investigations on the phone, freeing up police to attend ‘live’ incidents. Chief Constable Mike Cunningham told Staffordshire Police Authority

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“We need to make sure we respond to incidents that sometimes might seem quite minor.” Fellow member Adrian Bowen said: “As we move to phone response, which I accept is soundly-based, you need to make sure you keep the public confidence.” The new policy started in Stoke-onTrent, Newcastle and the Moorlands on September 26. It comes as overall crime in Staffordshire has fallen by almost 10 per cent to 33,730 crimes between April and September. Alan Joinson, chairman of East Bentilee Residents’ Association, said: “The police ought to be more visual to nip incidents in the bud.”

Do you support the new policy? Email us at letters@thesentinel.co.uk

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yesterday: “This is about service improvement at a time of reduced resources. If we lose the satisfaction of the people who contact us for help then we will have failed. “We need to make sure we can still live up to demands with significantly fewer people. “Both call handlers and response officers felt that many incidents were being attended inappropriately, for example matters which could be resolved over the phone, or by local authorities.” But authority member Frank Chapman, county councillor for rural Newcastle, told the meeting: “I don’t wish to devalue this, but there are deprived and challenging areas in the force area and a lot of vulnerable people.

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