I have now been Chief Constable of Greater Manchester for a year and the honeymoon period is well and truly over.
During the past 12 months, I have tried to build on the legacy left to me by the previous chief constable, Michael Todd. I wanted GMP to continue its excellent record in dealing with serious and organised crime, but develop further the day-to-day policing, which most directly affects people locally.
If there has been one overarching issue it has been to move away from an over emphasis on statistical targets and league tables to one driven by the local public need. People are no longer convinced by crime statistics and figures but rely on their own day-to-day experience.
There is a danger that by concentrating on statistics you lose sight of the real people behind them - the real offenders and the real victims. Of course statistics and measurement are still needed so you know how you are doing, but they can often be misleading and are not an end in themselves.
It is disappointing that this week certain national newspapers have highlighted that the detection rate for violence has dropped and immediately see that as a sign of failure. Within the figures for violence are many offences where the victim knows the offender. It will be said that this should mean that they are easy to detect, but in fact in many of these cases, the victims, particularly when they have had a chance to reflect, decide that they do not want to cooperate with the investigation and will not support a prosecution.
The officers dealing with another case may feel that an informal warning is the best way to deal with it, particularly when there are youngsters involved. The Crown Prosecution Service may decide it looks like a case of self-defence and not allow a prosecution to go forward. All these are factors that affect the detection rate.
Within the total number of violence offences will be very complex investigations and straightforward ones. There will be very serious injuries and some where there has been no injury at all, but perhaps a threat was made. There will be some where the victim is traumatised and some where the victim is not bothered. To lump all these together is misleading. To give the same credit for a detection whether the case was simple or very difficult creates an incentive to only concentrate on the easy ones.
In our new approach in GMP we want to concentrate on the most dangerous and persistent offenders and those crimes that are causing most local concern. We want to produce the outcome the victim wants. We do not want to spend time on minor offences where there is little to be gained for either party. We do not want to criminalise young people purely for the purpose of achieving a target. The key aim is to reduce violence overall and ensure we have fewer victims in the future.
So in our recent day of action against violence during which more than 750 people were arrested, the aim was not to achieve a detection target but to send a strong message to offenders and reduce the level of crime overall. We combined this with particular measures to deal with alcohol-fuelled disorder and town centre violence.
A key aim was to reduce delays in the criminal justice system by making special efforts to trace outstanding offenders and get suspects into court a lot quicker.
The concern about violent crime has led to further debate on alcohol abuse and consideration of the legislation now introduced in Scotland to ban some cut-price promotions. Certainly, when we explore the reasons behind the increase in some types of serious violence in Greater Manchester, the availability of cheap alcohol is seen as the key factor by police officers, and indeed by others on the frontline, such as paramedics.
This is not just about town centre violence, it is about people drinking huge amounts of cheap alcohol at home and then getting involved in violence or drunken disputes and calling the police to sort it out. We have not managed to get across to the public how so much police work, particularly at night and weekends, is taken up with dealing with the effects of our alcohol culture. I have not seen too many signs of this changing.
So at the end of my first year, I am pleased that we have continued to strengthen Neighbourhood Policing and improved our customer service through the way we answer calls and respond to incidents. I am pleased that we have reduced gun crime and gang activity. I am pleased that crime has reduced overall and we have now turned around the increase in burglary and the rate of burglary is now falling. I am pleased that many serious offenders are now behind bars and we are reducing delays in the criminal justice system. I am pleased we have put in place a programme of change to further improve the service, the productivity of our staff and our ability to cope with future public spending reductions. There is still much to do to make Greater Manchester a safer place. My own staff all know that we can do better and want to get back to what we believe works in policing.