North Yorkshire and York residents are set to vote for the area’s first new police, fire and crime commissioner since 2012.
As candidates press on with campaigning ahead of the May 6 poll, they have spoken of what they view as the biggest tasks facing Conservative Julia Mulligan’s successor to ensure the best policing service possible is delivered.
A TOUGHENED approach to crack down on County Lines drug dealing would be the top of marketing specialist Philip Allott’s agenda if he is named the new commissioner on May 7.
The former pupil at King James’ School Knaresborough said despite the best endeavours of North Yorkshire Police and the regional crime unit, County Lines dealers “are obviously still very active in North Yorkshire”.
Dismissing a suggestion that the issue was persisting due to a lack of resources to tackle it, he said government funding was being directed to the regional crime unit.
He said: “The thing I am interested in is making the drug dealers lives a misery. In many cases there is intelligence and we can use that intelligence to stop vehicles on suspicion, particularly cross-border.”
Mr Allott said he would push for further work to enable teachers to spot pupils who are part of County Lines drug dealing, help housing associations to identify cuckooing and action to spot children carrying drugs on railways.
He said: “The police on their own are not going to solve this and I see my role as working with different agencies, getting them all on board and actually communicating with each other, sharing intelligence and working for the greater good.”
Mr Allott said as commissioner he would also foster closer working with other agencies, launching a “complete reset” between the councils and the commissioner’s office.
He said: “We should be working for the greater good. I see the councillors from each of the different authorities as the eyes and ears of the commissioner. I see it as a partnership approach and that’s perhaps a very different way of looking at things.”
DISPENSING with the police, fire and crime commissioner and handing oversight of the services to councils would free up £1m annually to fund vital equipment and facilities, says former RAF officer James Barker.
He said the incoming commissioner’s greatest challenge would be in trying to deliver a service that has had “massive underinvestment over the years, but the challenges have forever been increasing”.
The Liberal Democrat York councillor said: “There’s a tipping balance and I think it’s not in favour of the police or fire service at the moment.
“I would be looking to try to bring that balance back into kilter through a mixture of working smarter, not harder, working more collaboratively and with more agencies, how we balance the books.”
He said: “Let’s stop fighting these fires individually and stop and build a fire service and work hand in hand rather have little pockets of people trying to do the best they can with these ever dwindling resources.
“We don’t get a fair crack of the whip being up North. I want to see a more developed system of Rural Watch. It’s a fantastic county we live in, but it’s awfully big and awfully rural and we can’t be everywhere all the time. I think sometimes it’s beholden on the landowner to be a little more proactive within certain bounds clearly in terms of reporting crime.
“Once we can identify a pattern we can have targeted intelligence to tackle the crime could you can spot trends and patterns and you can send resources.”
CLAMPING down on serious crime, rural crime and antisocial behaviour would among York-based lecturer and TV writer Alison Hume’s top priorities.
But the most important issue for her would be tackling violence against women and girls, using some of the commissioner’s £5m pot for victims to introduce a clear strategy working across all agencies and attract further funding to get to grips with what she describes as “a national emergency”.
She said: “If this was happening to men, dare I say it would have been dealt with.”
Ms Hume said the greatest challenge for the incoming commissioner would be to connect with the public. She said: “You have to be the voice of the people and for the last nine years we’ve had a commissioner who hasn’t been visible and approachable.”
Ms Hume added tackling County Lines was “clearly number one on the list” of challenges for North Yorkshire Police. She said: “Crime gangs are ripping our families and communities apart. support the creation of a specialist enforcement unit to track criminals on roads and railways and support drug diversion schemes to reduce harm and demand.
“The people who get caught up in County Lines are not criminals, they are victims, we need to build safe services to prevent them going into a life of crime. North Yorkshire does not get a fair share of the pie and I will be fighting at a national level for better funding.”
She said she would establish a rural crime taskforce in every district, with officers trained in dealing with offences ranging from domestic abuse to wildlife crime.
She added: “I think the public would be shocked to know the rural crime taskforce is just a handful of officers and they have to cover the whole of North Yorkshire.”
THE residents of North Yorkshire deserve both honesty from their commissioner and someone who will fight for a fair share of government funding, former police officer and bank fraud investigator Keith Tordoff says.
He says resources for both the police and fire services are spread too thinly across the county and highlighted that currently 13 road traffic patrols are expected to police more than 6,000 miles of roads.
Mr Tordoff said: “A lot of areas will not be being covered by the police. We have to be honest about it.”
He said upon being elected as commissioner, he would use his business and community experience to immediately hold a series of meetings with a range of bodies and the public to examine how the county could be made a safer place to live, work or visit.
When asked if he viewed North Yorkshire as a safe place, he said: “I think a lot of people don’t feel safe because they hear about County Lines drugs coming across the borders into North Yorkshire.
“Up until restrictions were brought in last year rural crime had vastly increased, which affects large swathes of North Yorkshire with its isolated communities and properties. Those people certainly don’t feel safe and to some degree feel let down because the rural taskforce is not sufficient to cover the vast area.”
He said as an Independent commissioner, he would be free to work with anybody and would not have to tow any political party’s line.
Mr Tordoff, who has pledged to donate £20,000 of his salary a year to charities, said: “Keep politics out of policing. The chief constable and chief fire officer should be allowed to get on with their operational duties without looking over their shoulder and worrying about political interference.”