What questions did the public ask Jane Kennedy about antisocial behaviour in Birkenhead?
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Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) answered questions from the public about antisocial behaviour in Birkenhead at a meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee held in Birkenhead Town Hall last Thursday evening.
First to ask a question was Paul Haywood. He had seen police officers patrolling Birkenhead in pairs or in pairs of police community support officers but he asked why the two weren’t mixed together? He also asked what police specials were.
Jane Kennedy replied, "In years past, when PCSOs [police community support officers] were introduced, we had more of them and we had more officers in the workforce there would have been more resilience to be able to pair officers with PCSOs. The bare truth is that now that is no longer the case."
Mr Haywood added that pairing PSCOs with police officers would give the PSCOs the experience they need to become police specials.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside answered, "First of all that route into the police is primarily the most successful route for candidates who are joining the force, although we just learned today a period of no recruitment as officers, we are still recruiting PCSOs and people who have had experience as specials, special constables or as PCSOs are usually most successful when it comes to applying to be a full constable.
So we’ve seen quite significant movement through into the force from PCSOs, so you’re right in the sense that having that experience helps, but what you have to hold in mind is that they are doing different jobs. Leaving aside the specials for the moment, police officers even working together in a neighbourhood team are performing slightly different roles to the PCSOs, whose primary focus is engagement and listening and communicating and gathering information. Arresting and responding to reports of crime is more well, they all do it but primarily that’s the job of these sworn officers.
I’m going to ask the Inspector if she would mind saying what the force policy is in terms of patrolling. I don’t think there’s a bar on them patrolling together, it’s just a matter of how they are together on a shift."
Inspector Georgina Minnery said, "The question did come to us and we provided a response. Effectively as the Neighbourhood Inspector I have no concerns with patrolling police officers with PCSOs, but as the Commissioner said they do perform different roles.
The PCSOs primarily are a visible role engaging with the community, listening to the community being out on foot whereas we have less police officers as I’m sure you’re aware and those police officers have to respond to incidents. Primarily they do tend to be in police cars, that’s not something I want for PCSOs and for my colleagues. PCSOs don’t go in vehicles as a rule, there are exceptions to that.
So PCSOs parade, sorry patrol on their own in singles or in pairs after a certain time. We tend to patrol in pairs after 6 o’clock in the evening and the police officers as I say they’re responding to incidents as a rule. The PCSOs are out there gathering intelligence and engaging with the community.
I don’t have a problem with them patrolling together if we had those resources available."
Answering the question about specials, Jane Kennedy answered, "It’s only just to say you’ve probably got a definition of what one is in the papers, primarily they are volunteers who come in but are fully trained and equipped to work as a fully sworn constable. So they do have powers of arrest, but they are volunteers, they are receiving expenses only for their work that they do, that’s right and you suggested PSCOs aren’t trained to the same level. PCSOs are trained, we invest heavily in making sure our staff are well trained, but they’re trained for a different role so we’ve already covered that really and I think we’re taking away the idea you suggested it’s common sense."
Mr Andrews from Bidston asked, "I live in the Bidston & St James ward and we’ve had a lot recently of antisocial behaviour from a particular gang of young lads who are aged between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. Now one of the requests that people keep on asking is why the police station in Laird Street was closed down? I know the answer’s going to be because of lack of funds, but when police officers have to come from the main station, here in Birkenhead when there’s a perfectly good facility there, why can that not be utilised at least for part of the day?"
Jane Kennedy said, "I think Laird Street has been has been affected. Certainly most police stations were closed to the public in terms of general enquiry desks some time ago, certainly before my time but Laird Street there was a long discussion at the Police Authority, I’m looking at Moira here, about how best to bring Laird Street back. I consulted on a strategy for police stations like Laird Street last October & November and the public supported the idea of disposing of the buildings like Laird Street which doesn’t lend itself to modern day policing.
Disposing of the building but find in the neighbourhood before we dispose of it a place where we could have a community police station where a regular surgery would be guaranteed to be held by the force and that’s the plan for Laird Street. It’s going to be quite some time before we do that and in the meantime the facilities at Laird Street I’m told are really very poor. So the force isn’t using it, it’s probably because it isn’t fit for them to use either. It’s not condemned or anything but I don’t think it’s a very comfortable place."
Councillor Moira McLaughlin (one of the representatives on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel) added, "We do have long discussions, I think the issue that we discussed was that plans for closure went ahead before the alternative provision was located and I think that proved a difficulty certainly in Rock Ferry and I know in Laird Street so that was the issue really.
As the plan went forward these alternative provisions weren’t identified, from what I hear you say at the moment I think that’s still the case, is that right?"
Jane Kennedy responded, "Well I wasn’t aware that, I think that Laird Street was occasionally used by the Force but not to any extent. It has been closed to the public for quite some time and the proposal was always to try and find an alternative facility so we never found that. We’re doing it in a staged process over ten years so we don’t have too great a burden on the police budget in terms of capital investment."
Anna from the St James Centre added, "Just to reassure you we are exploring options for supporting the police to have some kind of base within the North End and the St James Centre at the moment. Very early stages but those conversations are happening. Just to reassure you."
Mr Andrews expressed concern that if the police were based in the St James Centre, then at the times the public needed them that the St James Centre wouldn’t be open. Jane Kennedy replied, "I think what we are looking to provide in a community police station is not a base that will be open every day and used by the force but a base where police officers or PCSOs will be guaranteed in an advertised surgery to be available for the public to come and talk to and the feedback I got from the public was that the fact that the force had closed all its general enquiry desks meant that the public felt the force had moved away from them in their locations.
Now what we don’t want is officers, few as they now are, whether they are PCSOs, general enquiry officers or police officers tied to buildings when we need them out working in the street with housing officers, social workers and all of the others who are working to reduce antisocial behaviour.
So what we’ve found in other areas when we have community police stations there would be a modern, in the window if it is finally agreed at the community centre, St James Centre, if that is the place that is decided upon what we intend to do is to have a modern, digital way of telling the public when the surgery is going to be, advertising it on a screen so that it will be regularly updated including information about recent crime trends when the public have been engaged with and asked for information. So that’s the model we’re going to be implementing. I haven’t got one I can show you yet on the Wirral, but we’re working hard to deliver it and as soon as we do we’ll invite you to come and have a look."
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