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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Are Crime Commissioners cutting crime?

Do Police and Crime Commissioners make any difference? That's the question Jim poses in this week's blog ahead of elections for the posts in two weeks time.

Crime is a big issue for many people. We are all appalled by the growing number of young people stabbed to death. We fear for shopkeepers who face a 32% increase in shoplifting. Above all there is a widespread view that there is no point calling the coppers, they will just give you a crime number. And good luck getting a conviction for rape.

People feel the police are content to rely on CCTV rather than having a visible presence on the streets. That they turn a blind eye to crime whether it be Islamist protest or people openly snorting cocaine at the Grand National.

Those are the perceptions, they matter, but are they accurate? Up to a point Lord Copper. Offences like car theft, knife crime and computer misuse are up. But overall crime is down 17% since 2020 led by reductions in criminal damage, fraud, and homicides. After major cuts in police budgets, there has been a successful drive to recruit more police. There are stiffer sentences, putting huge pressure on our prisons.

Now we come to the question of whether Police and Crime Commissioners make any difference to all this. In two weeks’, time we will be electing these people to jobs that are still little known by the general public. Since they replaced the old system of police committee chairs, the elections have attracted low turnouts. So, what do they do?

Their job spec is to set the police budget, hire and fire the Chief Constable and set the force priorities.

It is difficult to measure whether they have made a difference because their profiles have remained generally low, like the police chairs before them.

The difficulty is the relations between Chief Constables and these PCCs. They are sometimes seen as too close but occasionally relations break down spectacularly. This was the case when Cheshire’s Chief Constable Simon Byrne was suspended in 2017 for misconduct when David Keane was the PCC. Byrne was cleared of the charge.

The Lib Dems want the posts abolished, but it is probably best to keep them as elected politicians do have a direct link to the public’s wishes on crime priorities.

Despite their view on PCCs, the Lib Dems are fielding candidates in the five elections in the North West, but it is effectively a contest between Labour and the Conservatives. Their candidates will be under pressure because of the national tide against them at the moment.

With that in mind we could see the return of Labour’s Clive Grunshaw in Lancashire after his defeat in 2021.

In Cheshire Tory John Dwyer, who first held the post in 2012, could be facing defeat at the hands of Labour’s John Price. This follows controversial remarks Dwyer made about the length of schoolgirls skirts.

Although Cumbria has been split into two unitary councils, the county will be choosing one PCC, who is also responsible for fire matters. Tory Peter McCall is standing down, but Mike Johnson will have a fight on his hands against Labour’s David Allen.

PCC elections are very male affairs, so thank heavens for Emily Spurrell who has done a good job succeeding Jane Kennedy in Merseyside. In Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is also the PCC where the police force is trying to recover from a period where its reputation was dented.

The second preference system has been abolished for these elections in favour of first past the post.

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