What is the point of the Police and Crime Commissioner?
That is a question I get asked a lot.
Often from those who remember the days of Police Authorities which were made of up of an elected group of local officials who would govern the local police force to help it serve the public - protecting people and preventing crime.
Although those two priorities remain today - there is so much more that I, as a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), do and can do compared to the old Police Authorities.
In a time when every organisation, rightly so, is scrutinised by the public, I hold the Chief Constable to account to ensure he is delivering the best police service to the people of Swindon and Wiltshire. I set the annual police budget - ensuring that every penny is accounted for so the public receive the best value for money for this best possible police service.
However,, in 21st century Britain, protecting our communities is not just about the policing and criminal justice response after a crime is committed but addressing the underlying causes to prevent it from happening; and so I also pay for a whole raft of services to help victims of crime and to support the Police and Crime Plan which helps Wiltshire Police prioritise what they do and how to achieve the best outcomes with partners and with the public.
There are four priorities in the plan:
Prevent crime and anti-social behaviour
Protect the most vulnerable people in society
Put victims and witnesses at the heart of everything we do
Secure a quality police service that is trusted and efficient
And the other services I commission to help deliver the plan include:
The Horizon Victim and Witness Care Service - this was set up to provide a single point of contact for vulnerable victims. It is fully integrated with other agencies like Splitz domestic abuse services, Victim Support, drug and alcohol services to give those people all the practical and emotional support they need as they go through the criminal justice system.
Restorative Together -I commission this restorative justice service which helps people affected by crime to communicate with the person or people responsible.
I chair the Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board which brings together a number criminal justice partners who's aim is to offer a first class service to victims and witnesses and deliver justice and prevent offenders from reoffending.
Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, starts today (4 Feb 2019); I work closely with a number of agencies which provide incredible outreach support to vulnerable women and I also commission a variety of services to help them. A good example is the relaunch - this week - of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) which has recently been taken over by the charity First Light. I support this vital, specialist facility which gives immediate help and support to recent victims of rape or sexual assault.
There are many more services I help provide to both victims and perpetrators of crime.
These services were never part of the Police Authority remit. To those people who question my governance, I am equally held accountable by the Police and Crime Panel - made up of locally elected officials like the ones who sat on the old Authority.
The world has changed a lot in the past eight years since PCCs were introduced, these days you have to treat cause and not just the symptoms of crime which I and my fellow PCCs attempt to do.
Admittedly, the model is not perfect but it's far more effective and inclusive for the police and people in our society than anything that came before.