One of my most useful recent meetings was with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, Matthew Scott, whose role is to set the policing priorities for the county, and then hold the Chief Constable to account for meeting them.
I wanted to bring two separate issues to Matthew’s attention. First, the need to maintain proper police coverage of Ashford town centre throughout the day and night, and secondly the recurrent problem of rural crime.
The overall good news from the meeting was that he has found the money to allow the Chief Constable to recruit up to 200 extra police officers for Kent. This shows what can be done with careful budgeting, and will allow progress to be made on both the priority areas I raised with him. There is already an extra officer assigned specifically to the town centre, and I am sure this will lead to an increase in confidence about the safety of the area.
Rural crime is often particularly hard to fight, as it can cover a mixture of illegal hare-coursing, fly-tipping, and burglaries from barns and sheds. It is inevitably crime which it is difficult to fight with CCTV cameras.
The Kent Police response is to set up specific units in each division of the county, with PCs dedicated to a Rural Liaison Team. This team is responsible for dealing with active criminals, as well as being a point of contact for advice on wildlife, heritage and environmental crime. You can follow them on Twitter at @kentpolicerural.
Fighting crime is a job that is never done, but Kent Police scores well in the annual national comparison statistics produced by the Inspectorate, and everyone benefits from their good performance. I will continue to work closely with the Commissioner to make sure the needs of Ashford residents are kept in mind.