PermaLink Driving down crime, driving up confidence02/09/2009 11:21 AM
I have continued my various visits around Greater Manchester and had many meetings regarding local and national matters. My focus remains on how we can maintain the current reduction in gun and gang activity and how we can further develop neighbourhood policing.

Last Thursday I went to a meeting of Stockport Council. In general the councillors who spoke said that they had seen a positive difference in their areas through a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour and valued the relationship they had with their local neighbourhood inspectors.

We discussed ways in which we can strengthen the service to the public and have a greater impact on certain local problems. One issue that came up was the change to the classification of cannabis. I made it clear that we would continue to focus our efforts on those who cultivate and supply cannabis but then be driven by the degree to which local people saw it as a problem. Where local people see drug dealing and flagrant drug use as a local priority then this will be a priority for the local policing team. Drug dealing obviously fuels the misery of drug addiction but also brings violence and acquisitive crime in its wake. Open dealing and drug use makes people feel unsafe and undermines their confidence in the law.

Cannabis has been reclassified because the cannabis now in circulation is stronger and more dangerous. There is more evidence of the psychological damage it can cause.

Other councillors at the meeting asked about speeding. This week we announced a sharp reduction in the number of people killed on the roads of Greater Manchester over the past year but inconsiderate road use is another form of anti-social behaviour which makes local areas feel unsafe. Excess speed is a cause of collisions but also means that when these collisions occur the injuries are far worse.

It seems to me as a chief constable that half the population is in favour of speed enforcement, the other half vehemently opposed. In fact surveys show the majority of the population is in favour of speed cameras although it often does not seem so in the media. In retrospect it may have been a mistake to create in the public mind a link between speed cameras and the fine income going to the Government.

Enforcement has a part to play but long term speed reduction often depends on engineering schemes to slow vehicles down. We will continue to look at how we use fixed and mobile cameras along with other initiatives such as community speed watch where local volunteers are trained in the use of speed detection devices. Again if its seen as a local priority we have to be seen to address it.

We have been asking ourselves why there has been this significant reduction in road deaths. Better car design, more seat belt use new medical procedures play their part but we are sure one of the main reasons is the use of the power to seize vehicles from those who do not have insurance, which includes those who do have a valid driving license. Police forces have taken huge numbers of uninsured vehicles off the road and we know that uninsured drivers are much more likely to have an accident.

There have been more reports this week about the surveillance society and the use of CCTV cameras and information databases. I think it is a good thing that these issues are being debated and the public are fully aware of the information being held on them. There are very good reasons why such databases, CCTV and other forms of technology are vital to the fight against crime. The public need to be sure however that the use of this information is properly controlled and proportionate and this matter needs to be fully debated and approved by parliament. Technology is opening up possibilities both for committing and preventing crime. We cannot uninvent these opportunities but we do need to ensure that the public feel that the power of the state - including that used through the police - is properly overseen and open to judicial oversight.

Peter Fahy
Chief Constable

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