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10 Jan 2018

Policing Our Neighbourhoods - My Meeting with Superintendent Gilmour

In October Thames Valley Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner did a presentation on activity in the Thames Valley and Reading area and there were some worrying statistics around drug crime.

You can see the papers and watch the meeting here.  My questions and response were reported in the papers.  I was concerned about daylight drug dealing in Battle ward.  Several residents had reported this to me and felt their calls to the police were not being responded to.

“My residents are extremely concerned about drugs in their area.
“You can now see people dealing drugs on the streets - in broad daylight it’s no longer a hidden activity, it’s happening on a daily basis.
“What can people do to make sure daylight drug dealing is a thing of the past in Reading?"

So Superintendent Gilmour and I promised to meet up.

Our meeting last week was a very productive one.  First off I made it clear I understood police budgets are being cut and that the police are under a lot of pressure, just as council budgets are being cut.  These cuts are all part of the Conservative government's austerity programme, something I believe is damaging lives and communities across the country. 

He told me how the neighbourhood teams are being realigned with borough wards and how they are taking pro-active action against crimes.  I asked that the results of this action be better communicated - criminals are being caught but we don't always get to hear about it.

He stressed that is it vital that incidents are reported to either 999 in an emergency or 101.  It's these reports and the intelligence they contain that helps the police allocate resources.  You may not have an officer call round but you will be helping highlight an issue in your area.

We have arranged to hold a series of events in Battle ward so residents can have their concerns heard.  I will be at all of them.  So we are going to:
  • Hold a World Cafe at Battle Library.  We will have tea and cake and discuss three or so 'hot topics'.  Tel me what they should be.
  • Get the bus! We will borrow a Reading Buses bus, park it somewhere in Battle ward and hold a Have Your Say meeting where you can pop along to chat to me or the police about your concerns. 
  • Hold street surgeries.  These are always popular.  We pick a date, time and a couple of streets and come to you.  You will have a notice popped through your door a few days before which you display in your window if you want us to call by.  Tell me which streets we should visit.
We didn't just discuss Battle ward.  I've been contacted by residents across Reading West about crimes ranging from anti-social behaviour, dangerous scooter riding and car break ins.

Superintendent Gilmour assured me that these events are available to any community is Reading so even if you're not a Battle resident you can contact me, or your local ward councillors, with a suggestion about the location of future events.  I can be contacted on cllrsarahhacker@virginmedia.com or sarah.hacker@reading.gov.uk as well as on social media.

We had a few minutes spare at the end of a very productive meeting so we took part in an exercise Superintendent Gilmour does pretty much everyday - decide on the priority of police activities.  It was quite difficult.  Do you prioritise staff training over catching burglers?  Here's what I had decided on after 5 minutes.  I could have done with a lot longer!

I fully appreciate the hard work our police force undertake to keep us all safe however budget cuts are reducing the preventative work they can do.  Remember, these cuts are being made by a Conservative government.  It is reported that Thames Valley Police are to see a further £22 million cut from their budgets over the next three years with a reduction of 59 police officer roles.  This needs to be reviewed and the police properly funded as our communities deserve better!

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