The fear of crime, especially in the town centre, is a subject often brought up with me when I meet people. The incidence of crime is much less than the fear, but even so it is clear that people want a more visible police presence to reassure them.
The good news is that this increased presence is now arriving. Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, has announced that the number of officers in Kent is now at an all-time high.
The number of officers in Kent is 4,203, which is 1,000 more than when Matthew was first elected the PCC in 2016, and 400 more than it was in 2010. This has been delivered through a mix of the extra money raised from the Council Tax (460) and the rest from the Government’s uplift programme which has seen a national increase of 20,000 police officers.
The other piece of heartening news is that this increase allows the introduction of a new Neighbourhood Policing Model, which will mean that we will see more officers out on the streets, not least in the town centre. We should see eleven extra officers operating out of Ashford Police Station, which will make a visible difference.
Of course it is the effect of this extra police presence that really matters. In Kent we are already seeing some encouraging trends. Recorded crime is down 3.5% in the past 12 months. Over the past four years burglary is down 45%, vehicle crime down 25% and violent crime down 5%.
There is always more to do, and anyone who has been a victim of crime knows that it leaves a mental scar for years, even if no physical danger was involved. Often that is what causes a long-term fear that crime is more likely to happen than it actually is. But an increasing police force is a good step towards reducing both crime itself and the fear that it brings.