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Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Commissioner reflects on 10 years of Police and Crime Commissioners

Police and Crime Commissioner, Darryl Preston writes …

Ten years ago, many people were speculating on whether the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales was a good idea. A decade on, and the proof is in the pudding!

There’s absolutely no doubt that PCCs have made a positive impact on the communities they are elected to serve. From all year-round engagement with residents and the prioritisation of their concerns through to increased scrutiny and accountability, there are a multitude of reasons why police and crime commissioners have been so successful at delivering change.

As an ex-police officer, I watched the role of PCCs evolve over the years. When the opportunity arose to stand for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, it wasn’t a difficult choice – I’ve relished the chance to use my background and experience to help make the county safer. My passion for cutting crime is as strong today as it always was, only now I get to do it from a strategic position rather than operational as was the case when I was a police officer.

Nearly a year ago I published my Police and Crime Plan, laying down my five pillars for progress over the coming three years – Putting Communities First, Crime Prevention, Supporting Victims and Witnesses, Ethical Policing and Robust Enforcement. These priorities are not my priorities but your own, gathered during many months of conversations and meetings to help me understand what matters to you most.   

We’ve made a great deal of progress since then and I acknowledge that this success is down to a great number of people besides myself. And that’s another great triumph for PCCs – the effective way they have brought community safety and criminal justice partners together to solve problems.

Furthermore, none of these improvements would have been possible without investment. The ability to attract and seek out vital funds to support safety work locally is yet another great strength of PCCs. In my first year as Commissioner, my office successfully brought in funding worth £1.8m. This helped me expand critical services for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence and increase safety in our communities. I also continue to invest in vital prevention work across the county. This includes my decision to inject up to £730,000 to support the important work of our six Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This pays for additional Problem-Solving Coordinators in the CSPs for the next three years who work with local police, police and partners to resolve issues. It also provides a Safer Communities Fund which provides small grants for initiatives providing a swift response to issues such as anti-social behaviour, road safety, bike theft and fly tipping.

More recently I’ve been pleased to hear my vision for local problem solving becoming a reality, with these new Problem-Solving Co-ordinators really getting stuck in and working with local communities to tackle the issues which matter to them.

Similarly, I’ve been able to bolster community work to prevent people from being drawn to crime. My Youth Fund, for instance, provides grants of up to £3,500 for youth-led projects that encourage young people to get involved in activities that build their confidence and skills and help them become resilient adults.

A Wisbech-based non-profit organisation, benefited from £3,400 in the summer towards an improvised drama project aimed at helping young people spot the dangers of county lines before they are drawn into harmful situations.

Linda Ekins, Lead Drama tutor of LEADA Cambs CIC, said: “This funding is helping us to educate young people about county lines, challenge perceptions and analyse the motives behind grooming. The workshops allow them to discover pitfalls and investigate safe solutions to prevent them from becoming victims.”

It is possible that the responsibilities of PCCs could grow in the future and such a move would provide us with even more flexibility to work with communities and partners to develop innovative solutions that address the root causes of crime. While this remains to be confirmed, what is certain is that PCCs have the potential to achieve much more for the benefit of our communities through their influence. For now, it remains my absolute privilege to serve as your Commissioner and honour my pledge to listen and learn from your experiences, to cut crime, help victims and keep people safe.