Incoming police boss pledges to restore public confidence

Jo Coles.

The proposed police and crime boss for York and North Yorkshire has pledged to restore public confidence in the force following an inquiry concluding many community groups have lost the community policing relationship, felt unsafe in public areas and that hate crimes are “radically under-reported”.

Ahead of appearing before the area’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel on Wednesday (June 12) for a confirmation hearing to become Deputy Mayor for Policing, Fire and Crime, York councillor Jo Coles said the non-reporting of crime was “of real concern because it points to a lack of faith that anything can or will be done”.

If the panel approves the appointment of Ms Coles, who has been selected for the £68,750 salary role by York and North Yorkshire mayor David Skaith, among the first things she will look at will be the recommendations of a Community Commission instigated by the area’s final Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoe Metcalfe.

The commission, which in recent months engaged with under-represented community members from groups such as York LGBT Forum, Up For Yorkshire, Ark House Rehab, Revival North Yorkshire, Northallerton Mencap and Disability Support Forum, found:

*Groups felt they have lost the community policing relationship, especially in more rural areas, partly due to constant staff changes and officers and PCSOs regularly moving to new roles.

*Authorities’ responses to hate crimes varied drastically and that hate crimes are hugely under-reported, with instances of transphobia made more difficult to report because of public acceptance.

*Lots of marginalised community groups felt fearful of victimisation and unsafe in public and while using public services, including on the streets, on public transport, and in provided accommodation.

The commission’s recommendations included increasing methods of accessing support and reporting crime while out, police officers attending local community groups more regularly and the force making more public shows of solidarity with protected groups.

One recommendation called on North Yorkshire Police to “delete discriminatory or abusive comments and responses on your own
social media accounts”.

A report to the panel states Mr Skaith had discussed the scope for “greater focus on prevention, protection and early intervention in relation to community safety” with Ms Coles, to whom he will delegate almost all the functions of the police, fire and crime commissioner.

In a wide-ranging statement to the panel, including issues such as County Lines, rural crime and offences against women, Ms Coles said she would work to improve public trust.

The Labour councillor said she would focus not only on emergency response times but also on follow-up services and support, while addressing the causes and effects of crime.

She said: “Community confidence through timely and appropriate response for example is vital to reassure residents that services will be there if needed.

“Non-reporting is of real concern because it points to a lack of faith that anything can or will be done. Mayor Skaith and I will work alongside the leadership teams of both services to improve public trust.”

Ms Coles added: “I am keen to better understand how a public health approach could be used, focusing on early intervention and prevention.

“All members of the public have a right to feel safe. I am committed to building public confidence amongst all our diverse communities in their policing and fire services.”

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