Chief Constable Stephen Watson – Update on our Plan to Build a New GMP.
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As it approaches one year since I launched our plan to improve Greater Manchester Police and unveiled a series of promises to the public, I am pleased to provide an update which I trust will demonstrate to the people of Greater Manchester that the plan is working, and green shoots of improvement are coming into fruition.
Since September 2021, we have seen advancement in all areas highlighted as causes for concern by the HMICFRS, and the areas we know our communities rightly expect us to improve upon. In this time I have appointed effective leadership, set out a clear plan, and taken our policing approach back to basics, effectively fighting, preventing and reducing crime, keeping people safe, and caring for victims.
To ensure the plan would be delivered at pace, I established a strong leadership team. This involved bolstering the Force Executive team with experienced leaders and putting in place dedicated and accountable District Commanders at Chief Superintendent level in every district across Greater Manchester to improve local leadership and partnership working. This inspired the most ambitious senior recruitment process in GMP’s history, and I’m pleased to confirm they are all in post and supporting front line officers and staff in delivering on our mission. With the right leadership in place and everyone working together in the same clear, positive and progressive direction, we are beginning to make rapid and sustained progress.
One of the very first things I committed to the public was to ensure when they called GMP in their time of need we would answer quickly and seek to get them the appropriate response as swiftly as reasonably possible. I am pleased to say that we are seeing increasingly improved call answer times, with the average call answer time for 999 calls in June at 29 seconds, which is down from 1 minute and 6 seconds in June 2021.
However just this weekend, we saw the best call answer time for 999 that we’ve seen in GMP memory, with call answer times below 10 seconds consistently from Friday evening until Monday morning. We’re also seeing a positive trend in the 101 call answering time, reduced to 4 minutes and 19 seconds in June 2022, which is faster than its peak of 6 minutes 44 seconds in July 2021.
This marked improvement is down to new leadership within our call handling branch, the 1,100 hardworking call handlers answering calls and enquiries from the public 24 hours a day, the utilisation of technology and improved processes, and a £1million investment resulting in 40 new call handlers joining our Force Contact Centre. Recruitment in this area is very much ongoing and recruitment events are taking place throughout the summer and vacancies can be found on our website.
This goes hand in glove with our response to incidents, and I can confirm that response times for grade one calls have reduced since the peak times we were seeing in September last year. Our average response time to Grade 1 incidents in June was 10 minutes and 12 seconds, almost 5 minutes under the 15 minute target. 40% of grade 2 attendance times are now achieved within the target time of one hour. Times have fallen from 20 hours and 55 minutes in May 2021, to 1 hour and 27 minutes in May 2022. Whilst this is a significant improvement, we are continuing to work on this to achieve lower response times. Our work here is by no means complete, but we are delivering on our commitment to the public that at the very first point of contact with GMP, they receive a prompt response and turn out when needed.
This in turn has led to a renewed focus on crime recording practices and process improvement. For May 2022 the force recorded 33,170 crimes, the most crime recorded for the last 9 months. We are recording around 30,000 crimes on average. This data shows that we have improved the accuracy of our record keeping to the extent HMICFRS has adjudged us to be 94% compliant with national crime recording standards, and therefore this element of the cause for concern has now been rescinded.
This supports my promise to the public - to make Greater Manchester a safer place to live, work and visit. It is imperative that our priorities are centred around getting the basics right, preventing and reducing crime, harm and anti-social behaviour. I am confident by now you will have seen Operation Avro taking place in your local community - our highly visible day of action in which our resources in that district are aligned for 24 hours of targeted action tackling the issues, and more importantly, the criminals blighting your neighbourhood. We will have shortly executed this operation in every district across Greater Manchester with optimal results. As of June 2022, 290 individuals have been arrested as part of Operation Avro, with 111 search warrants undertaken, 713 motorists reported for motoring offences, and 98 vehicles seized or prohibited from the road – demonstrating our active approach to tackling those who treat our roads like racetracks.
Our dedicated action to tackle crime is of course not limited to one day of action. As part of my commitment to investigate and solve crime, I also pledged to doubling the number of arrests made and as of May 2022 figures show our arrest number is 61% higher than of May 2021 – the highest they have been for two years. To better accommodate this and the criminal justice process, we have reopened the 18-cell Bolton custody suite which is now used full-time to increase capacity, and in support of our renewed focus on arresting offenders and investigating crime, an additional 28 custody sergeants have been recruited. Plans to refurbish other custody suites and uplift criminal justice units are well underway.
It is important that this enforcement action results in positive outcomes, and in addition to recording more crime we must seek to resolve more crime positively. Our performance is certainly going in the right direction and figures show during a rolling 12 months to the end of May overall positive outcomes were up by 19% (29,120) with 21% more crimes resulting in a charge or a summons. In May 2022 alone, we solved 1,000 more crimes than in May 2021, an increase of 46%. We’re also delivering on our commitment to attend every burglary with attendance at 94% and whilst not every burglary victim will take up the offer of officer support, we will continue with this approach to ensure a prompt and a thorough investigation into these crimes.
Whilst this activity shows we are going back to basics and getting the policing approach right, we are not resting on our laurels and we continue to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their wallets. We’re seeing an increased trend in the value of asset recovery each month, and our new Account Freezing Order Team which specialises in restricting criminal’s access to money in accounts has returned £2million of victims’ money in just six months of operation. This follows a record-breaking year for our Economic Crime Unit that saw almost £14million recovered between April 2021 to March 2022 – an increase of 26% on the year before. We continue to prove that Greater Manchester is no place to commit crime – if you are acting criminally you can expect us to seize your house, your car and your cash when we catch you.
These are just some of the key indicators that GMP is fast emerging as the most improved force in the country. This is a positive marker for everyone at GMP who, despite the inevitable challenges which come with transforming an organisation of this magnitude, have embraced this undertaking and whilst simultaneously adopting a new operational model to enable change to happen, they continue to strive towards our shared goal of awakening the giant we know our organisation can be.
Our major improvement projects for 2022-23 aligned to our improvement plan are clearly set out and fully funded. Each programme is led by a dedicated Chief Officer and overseen by improvement boards to scrutinise our progress in detail. These boards will oversee the delivery of transformational changes to operational policing, with key strategic reviews underway in both response and neighbourhood policing; as well as numerous projects to improve investigative resilience, force intelligence, digital and cyber investigations, and provide a more resilience specialist capability to meet the future demands and tactical deployments envisaged. There is much to accomplish and delivering these projects and improving services require us all to maintain a positive mindset and deliver to the very best of our abilities.
An additional focus for us as we head into the next stage of our plan to fully realise our potential is to strengthen our workforce. We are on the cusp of an enormously positive period in our history in that we will continue to forge ahead at pace, and we are recruiting into almost every area of policing the career has to offer. As one of the largest forces in the country, GMP can offer a range of specialisms and diverse experiences that you would not get elsewhere. Other forces may have some of these opportunities but here at GMP, we have them all. All information on our vacancies and information for transferees can be found on our website.
We are making excellent progress in our transition to the resurgent GMP, and it is thanks to our committed officers and staff who are determined to stay the course until we deliver what our public rightly expects of us, and that I am confident we will reach our latent potential. GMP is a force to be reckoned with, and we have positively embarked on the process of becoming the force Greater Manchester deserves. I would like to thank colleagues, our partner agencies and most importantly the good people of Greater Manchester for their continued support whilst we surge on with our mission to be the best police force in the country.