As we approach the new decade, the “twenty twenties”, I look back on an incredibly busy year for Lincolnshire Police at a time when, unfortunately, we saw further reductions in officer and staff numbers. Responding to tragic events and delivering daily policing has been a real challenge and, understandably, the source of stress and anxiety, when people are just trying to do the best they can. The hard work and dedication of all the officers and staff across Lincolnshire is humbling to me, and the continued support of local communities, so very welcomed.

Against these difficulties, great things have been achieved. During the year I was able to see some projects come to a positive conclusion. High amongst these is the new South Park Emergency Services station providing a brand new home for the police in Lincoln and our colleagues from Fire and Rescue and the Ambulance Service. These things take years and I am grateful to all those involved, including the significant support of the County Council. A better environment to work in can give people a much needed boost.

So we finish the year with a Government who have pledged to increase the number of police officers across England and Wales. This means a short-term rise of fifty for us, with the prospect of a hundred more in the next couple of years. The PCC, Marc Jones, and I will pressure Government to use this opportunity to redress some of the historic imbalances that have so harmed policing in Lincolnshire. We have a reason then, to be optimistic that a brighter future is on the horizon.

The wellbeing of all my staff is a clear concern for me; particularly given the difficult jobs they carry out. I hope that recruiting more people to the force will go a very long way, not just in improving our service, but also in helping people be happy, healthy, valued and engaged as a member of Lincolnshire Police.

I say so often that policing is a family and this is a time of year to remember everyone in that family; to celebrate what we have achieved; to be grateful for what we have received, and to thank those around us for the help and support they have shown throughout the year. I am immensely proud to be part of this family and I hope that at some point this Christmas you get a chance to have some enjoyable time with your family.

Lincolnshire is a wonderful county and the police officers and staff that work here are passionate about what we do. Simply put – keeping you as safe as possible. Whether that is going about your life in public, in your home or online; your safety is what matters to all of us.

Bill Skelly is the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police.

Spirit of Christmas Past…

In reflecting on the events of the last year, I am struck by the enormous support that Lincolnshire Police continues to receive from so many places. We have pulled together across our communities and partner agencies and faced challenges with tremendous understanding and a motivation to get things done.

I was particularly struck by the way in which individuals and the whole county helped each other during the occasions of severe weather: from extremes of snow, ice and rain, through to heat and drought!

Many of our major towns suffered from the blight of drug misuse and the associated violence and antisocial behaviour. While we had some major successes in arresting drug suppliers, including intercepting several kilos of Spice (a drug that has a hugely debilitating effect), I am very clear that this is a problem that will require sustained work from the police and other agencies.

I am pleased to look back on our approach to rural crime, in particular, the illegal practices of hare coursing and poaching. With limited resources, the Operation Galileo team have achieved a huge amount in catching criminals, forfeiting dogs and vehicles and seizing cash. Building confidence back in our rural communities has begun and I know is welcomed.

Spirit of Christmas Present…

And the good work continues. The national approach to diverting people from radicalisation, called Prevent, has excellent support in Lincolnshire, particularly from Lincoln City Football Club – who themselves continue to go from success to success.

I was delighted that the weather was kinder this year for the Lincoln Christmas Market and the four days passed with praise for, and from, all partners. It was one of many Christmas events across the county that have given people the opportunity to enjoy this time of year and our wonderful area, while also helping to boost the local economy.

Unfortunately, tragedy has never been too far away. There are still far too many injuries on our roads and recent collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians have resulted in a terrible loss of life and all of the pain that brings. I hope that people take extra care when using our roads when conditions are difficult but everyone should always be careful and show respect for other road users.

Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come…

Two big issues remain unresolved and each will affect policing in Lincolnshire in important ways.

The government continue to negotiate with Europe on the terms of the UK’s exit and there is much ongoing debate in Westminster and across the country. With a large number of communities in Lincolnshire from other parts of Europe, I know that the next few months will be of particular concern. We will be working with central government and local authorities to ensure, as far as possible, that communities are kept informed of the implications of decisions on Europe.

In addition, our funding picture has yet to be finalised. It may seem strange to many of the businesses in Lincolnshire but I don’t know my budget for the next financial year (19-20) and we are only three months away. It does make planning for services quite difficult. My predecessors and I have often spoken about the underfunding that Lincolnshire Police has suffered from over a number of years, largely due to an out-dated way in which the Home Office central grant is distributed, which amounts to half of all of my funding.

Recent announcements on police funding have been welcome but they amount to less than a standstill budget for me and so I am forced to continue to look at cuts to service, although they are thankfully less than I was worried I might have to make.

These two issues are dominating the immediate future. Meanwhile, I remain committed to pursing our goals of providing the best possible quality of service to our communities with the resources I have, and supporting the wellbeing of staff in Lincolnshire Police.

I frequently talk about policing as a family and it feels particularly relevant at this time of year. In amongst all the challenges we face as an organisation, I am determined we act like a family and care for each other, support each other and be kind to each other. Some small acts of compassion can have a huge impact.

Bill Skelly is the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police.

Last night the UK threat level was raised from severe to critical, meaning a further attack could be imminent.

Here in Lincolnshire, our daily business does not change and we continue to police professionally and engagingly. We have made some changes in response to the escalation in the threat level.

People in Lincolnshire can expect to see more officers on the streets, more routine checks and patrols will be taking place and, quite simply, you can expect that those officers will be around for you to approach if you have any concerns or if you need any information.

Some of those officers will be armed. If you’ve ever been to a big event in the county or anything large scale and pre-planned, then you’ll be used to seeing officers carrying firearms; this is a necessary response to the events of the last few days.

At the moment you won’t see soldiers on our streets. Military capability is there if we need it and, if we do, will be in accordance with a well-considered plan.

I understand people will be anxious and concerned and I want to reassure everyone that we are well prepared. There are a number of events planned across the county coming up which people might be worried about. We are working with organisers to ensure those events are as safe and secure as possible and we hope that you are still able to go and enjoy them.

This is an exceptional and difficult time. The key things to take away are that we are constantly reviewing and assessing and that you should be alert, not alarmed. If something seems out of place to you, talk to us.

We’d much rather hear about something that comes to nothing than receive information too late to act.

Please take note of safety advice and, in the very rare event you are caught up in any kind of weapons attack, please remember to follow the Run, Hide, Tell advice.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind people that any type of hate crime will not be tolerated. Emotive incidents like these can sometimes cause discord within communities.

Over the coming days and weeks we will be reaching out to make sure those existing bonds and relationships stay strong.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of hate crime please report it straight away on 101 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Terrorists seek to create fear and distrust. As the police, but more importantly as people, we will not let that happen.

We stand with Manchester and we stand together as a country.

A small amount of people carry out these heinous crimes and we will not let them win.

Let us work closely together to unite against those who seek, through violence and extremism, to intimidate or cause fear.

Bill Skelly is the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police.