New Cumbria police and crime commissioner gets down to basics
Last updated at 16:27, Thursday, 21 February 2013
THE man elected to hold Cumbria police to account was met with a queue of inquisitive people on a visit to Barrow – despite the public apathy demonstrated at last year’s election.
The legitimacy of Cumbria’s first police and crime commissioner was criticised after only 15.6 per cent of the electorate went to the ballot box last November.
Conservative candidate Richard Rhodes took on the role, but fewer than five per cent of Cumbria’s electorate actually voted for him – prompting criticism of the £65,000 salary job and the expensive election process.
But Mr Rhodes was yesterday met with a steady stream of people eager to talk about how crime affected them.
The commissioner – who was mainly told about increases in domestic violence, hate crime and speeding-related anti-social behaviour – said he had enjoyed a good start to the job.
He said: “It seems the office has generated quite a lot of interest, particularly when you compare it with the low turnout for the election.
“I think people have been surprised by how open we’ve been and how easy it is to come and talk to us about matters and hopefully that is the case. People obviously have some genuine concerns.
“There are a lot of historic issues which I can’t do anything about. But in terms of current things, I can make enquiries for people, meet people, and I think that’s been appreciated so far.”
Speaking to the Evening Mail during the drop-in session in The Forum, Mr Rhodes said anti-social behaviour was the biggest, single crime issue in Barrow.
He said: “A lot of that is drunkenness on a Friday and Saturday night.
“I’ve just had a guy in here telling me about some appalling behaviour directed at him and his wife by children.
“These children have parents and what are the parents doing about their children crashing around the streets causing mayhem and making life unpleasant for other people?
“If life is made unpleasant in your own home by other people, I don’t think it can get any worse than that.”
“(Cumbria-wide) 52 per cent of all domestic violence over the Christmas period was alcohol-fuelled. We know there’s a link there.
“Much of it is serious violent crime and it’s about public attitudes. Young people invariably see violent behaviour and think it’s the way to behave. So the police can do a job in restraining and educating people and talking to them about it.”
Barrow police came under the national spotlight during the recent inquest into the death of Barrow dad Dale Burns, 27.
The jury ruled the designer drug “madcat”, and not the fact he was tasered four times by police, was responsible for his death in August 2011.
Asked whether there were lessons for police to learn about tasers, Mr Rhodes said: “There will be a comprehensive report on that case and I’ve not actually seen that. But I’m very pleased the inquest found the police officers acted appropriately and within the law and that view was supported by the IPCC investigation.
“It’s a tragedy from the point of view of the Burns family, but there are times when the police have to deal with some very, very difficult situations and they have to make instant decisions – and this was clearly one of them.”
The inquest verdict re-opened the debate on designer drugs and their dangers.
Mr Rhodes said: “As a magistrate in Barrow for 10 years, I know drugs are a significant problem. But now it’s a new wave of drugs; a new type of drugs and it’s a matter which we need to pay some attention to.
“But the bottom line is, it’s about education – educating people to understand the risks they’re taking.”
New figures show one in five children in Barrow live in poverty and Mr Rhodes said it was just as important to analyse the reasons that lie behind crime as it was to tackle crime when it happened.
He added: “There’s been general socio-economic demands in particular areas of Barrow for a long time and the present situation is unlikely to make it any easier.”
Mr Rhodes also revealed the force now had two preferred bidders to build Barrow’s new police station in Andrews Way – with a decision due in the early summer.
First published at 16:03, Thursday, 21 February 2013
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
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