Commissioner speaks of opportunity to “squeeze” crime in Essex as lockdown restrictions ease

Police have been given an opportunity to turn a temporary improvement in the levels of crime into a permanent one, says the newly re-elected crime commissioner.

Roger Hirst, who was elected as the Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner with 54 per cent of the vote, said that police have been alerted to a potential increase in crime when the economy re-opens. But with a surge in police activity over the coming months also comes an opportunity to permanently squeeze crime.

Mr Hirst said: “The night time economy has been closed and it will reopen again. Criminological theory will tell us that as we return to more routine activity there will be more routine crime.

“You will be bringing potential victims and potential perpetrators back into the same space and therefore there will be more for police to do. That is reality and we are very alert to it.

“Even before the local elections the chief constable’s team presented me with a package of measures that we intend to take over the period of the lockdown being eased.”

This comes with an incremental spend of about £1.3 million of funding from the Government on top of already earmarked resources to continue its fight against top priority including gangs and domestic abuse.

Mr Hirst said: “It has been a tough time for everyone over the past year and there sadly have been plenty of legitimate businesses that have not been able to survive but gratifyingly, plenty of criminal businesses have not been able to survive. We need to keep them out of business.”

In the long term, police forces are also having to grapple with what may be a new reality for leisure, as well as working practices from home.

Mr Hirst added: “Of course we are thinking about it but right now we don’t know the answer. Society will be different we just don’t know to what degree.

“There will be a big snap back over the summer and a lot of the stuff that has stopped will start again. But is it a different shape?

“We don’t have the evidence yet to tell us that we don’t need the resources that we have or indeed won’t.

“Right now we are using those resources because we have some flexibility – we have been using that capacity to roll up drug gangs.

“But what will be stupid of me is to argue that we don’t need an expansion budget because for example due to COVID homicide is lower than it was in 2015. And that burglary is 30 percent lower than it was in 2015.

“We have to expect there will be a snap back and what I really want to do is to have the police in a position where they can deal with that snap back and stop it being such a snap back.

“Let’s get out with the surge activity and stop these people getting back into their old ways and make this temporary improvement into a permanent improvement.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter