Chief Constable Watson in the Radio Manchester hotseat
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Chief Constable Stephen Watson made his monthly appearance in BBC Radio Manchester's 'hotseat' this morning (Tuesday 22 February) answering a series of questions from the public.
The hour-long phone-in with presenter Mike Sweeney saw CC Watson asked about a range of topics - including knife crime, iOPS, roads policing, tackling burglary and our ongoing neighbourhood consultation.
During the show, the Chief announced the Force would have at least 400 extra officers by the end of the year, that the Roads Policing Unit is being actively doubled in size, and 28 custody sergeants have already been recruited with arrests up by over 40%.
Amongst the calls, praise was given for our recent response to burglaries that has seen officers physically attending over 90% of reports since the launch of Operation Castle - which sees us pledge to tackle all forms of this intruisive and ruinous crime.
CC Watson on our response three fatal stabbings in the region so far in 2022: "One of our immediate responses was to really up the ante in terms of stop-and-search. That suppresses activity but what's required is more profound work such as with the Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit; education and looking at the root causes.
"What I'm really keen to make sure in the here and now is that we're still doing something really actively. We're increasing the number of people we're arresting by 41%, and are stopping and searching more people.
"We have to balance the longer-term work that really works and the shorter-term; whatever's gone wrong in people's lives, if you're carrying knives and have a propensity to violence we've a job to get between you and the public - that's what we increasingly intend to do."
The Chief is next asked about access to crime stats online, and iOPS:"Our computer system doesn't automatically populate the stats database. What we are working on is a solution to that because I do want people to see what is happening in their area.
"We are now at a place where we have all the information at our fingertips to make a decision (on the future of iOPS); what we're dealing with now is the consequential management of what is a significant decision. As soon as we do (make a decision) we will let people know."
CC Watson on the service given to a man calling 101 about noise pollution: "Where we're getting this wrong is we're being a little bit too didactic; it's the case we don't enforce noise pollution but where we've people available is it beyond us to send the local bobbie around?"
On illegal numbers plates and general policing of our roads, the Chief said: "It is illegal to have anything other than a bog-standard number plate. The plain truth is we've stopped enforcing that; that is something we absolutely intend to turn around.
"This is just a symptom of under-policed roads: I think our arterial routes particularly too often resemble a race track. We've people crashing red lights; under-taking you at speed; zig-zagging through the traffic; a lot of false plates.
"We're doubling the size of our traffic unit which will be complete within months - we're working really quickly to do that. The efforts we're going to take to get policing back on arterial routes is massively important. We're absolutely determined to dial-up what we do here."
Asked about the number of officers the public can expect us to recruit following the increase in the police precept, CC Watson said: " "We're recruiting really strongly at the moment; we will be recruiting an additional 438 officers (net) in the coming year. We probably will recruiting the thick-end of a thousand in total.
"There's a few things we've very specifically made promises around with the increase in the precept; sustaining the improvements with our call handling; we're getting to people more quickly; recording crime more faithfully; arresting more people."
CC Watson on getting morale 'back on track': "The morale has been shot-through over the past few years. Candidly, it's going to take a little time to turn it; but the days of multiple plans, policies, uncertainty - those days are over.
"We've got one plan; we've got renewed & changed leadership at all levels. I have personally given two-hour inputs to over 1000 of our Sergeants - they've all got leadership objectives from me, personally."
The Chief responding to praise about a response to a recent burglary in Sale: "We've been very clear that ours is a back-to-basics mission; it's about investigating & recording crime. Where following every reasonable line of inquiry gets us we'll arrest someone because we're the police.
"Every single burglary anywhere in GM will be attended physically by a police officer. We are well into the 90%-plus of attendance of every single burglary. Too many burglars have got away with it."
Asked about Mancunian Way's new 30mph limit, the Chief said: "If the limit is appropriate then it needs to be enforced. If there's widespread flouting of the thing that is legitimately there then enforcement needs to take place."
CC Watson responding to a mother worried about her son in the police: "I know the risks that our people take on a daily basis on behalf of the public and they should - unless they prove themselves unworthy - be respected and admired by the public."
The Chief closed by discussing neighbourhood policing and our ongoing public consultation: "My strategy is to enforce the law. That's why we're arresting more, stopping & searching more, we're re-opening Bolton custody and looking at Longsight. We've recruited 28 custody Sergeants as we're going to be locking up more people.
"As part of our neighbourhood policing consultation, we will genuinely keep an open-mind as to where we fly our flag in communities."