In policing terms, 2012 has been a really unusual year in a number of ways. The Olympic games took centre stage for a good part of the summer and were, quite rightly, hailed a great success. Whilst the athletes received the praise for some fantastic performances, the real winners for me were the scores of people in the background working so hard to make it a success.
Lincolnshire Police certainly played its part to the full. In addition to providing a number of officers to police the Olympic games themselves, we were fortunate enough to host the Olympic torch relay in several locations in the county. The crowds were quite incredible and the people of this county certainly entered the spirit of the games.
Away from the euphoria surrounding the Olympics, it has undoubtedly been a tough economic year. We are all having to adjust to a new reality, one in which we are having to make our money go much, much further.
National funding cuts meant that Lincolnshire Police had to lose some 70 officers last year — you don’t need me to tell you that in a small force already recognised as one of the leanest in the country, that’s just not easy.
This has been a year of unprecedented demand for the force and I believe that, together with our partners, we met the challenge head on.
Crime is at its lowest level in Lincolnshire for the past ten years and last year saw the seventh consecutive year of reduction. To put that in context, there were 4,840 fewer victims of crime last year than in the previous twelve months. In addition, we are also detecting more crimes.
How have we managed that with fewer officers? Well, make no mistake it has not been easy and we have had to be very creative in order to get the most out of our staff and keep our officers out on the streets.
We reshaped our organisation, stripping out administrative boundaries and operating our services in the same way across the whole of the county, through eleven policing teams.
You may have heard that we became one of the most progressive forces in the country in relation to partnering with a private sector company. Crucially, bringing the private sector to provide some back office services into the policing support world has meant really significant savings that help to protect us from deeper frontline police cuts.
With reduced numbers we’ve also had to look really hard at how we deploy our staff. In October this year we fine-tuned our local policing operation to ensure that we have the right officers in the right places at the right times.
When I took over this role in April this year, I said that there were two key priorities – maintaining the front line numbers and working properly with our neighbourhoods and communities – I believe the changes we have made this year have made a significant difference and will stand us in good stead for the future.
So what do the next 12 months hold?
You may be aware that Alan Hardwick was successfully elected as the new police and crime commissioner for Lincolnshire. Alan is a few weeks into his job and he and I will be working hard over the coming months to continue to reduce crime and keep our officers out on the front line.
There is no denying that there are some real challenges in the year ahead.
When I first stepped out on the beat, as a young probationer patrolling the streets in Lincoln 26 years ago, this force was full of talented, committed people. That certainly remains the case today and that gives me real hope for the future. When you have people who take pride in their job and want to make a difference — that takes you a fair way, when you have the whole-hearted support of the community, it makes many things far more achievable.
— Neil Rhodes is the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police