Police force is one of country's best

SUFFOLK Constabulary has been named among the top-performing police forces in the country.It was graded either "good" or "excellent" in 14 of the 16 categories in a new report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

By Jonathan Barnes

SUFFOLK Constabulary has been named among the top-performing police forces in the country.

It was graded either "good" or "excellent" in 14 of the 16 categories in a new report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

The inspection looked at performance, leadership and governance in 2003/04, and Suffolk police was praised for its "resolute action and commitment" through Suffolk First – a strategy to make the county the safest in the country.


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Only one category, call handling, was graded as "poor", which the force has launched a major project to combat.

Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said: "This extremely positive report underlines the commitment of both the officers and staff of Suffolk Constabulary to keeping their county safe – and reflects the strong partnership that exists between the police and local people.

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"It comes as initial analysis of figures for the last financial year shows that Suffolk has maintained its position of being the safest county in England.

"Our Suffolk First initiative aims to make sure people not only are safe by preventing and solving more crime but also that they feel safe too – and I am particularly pleased that we have been judged as 'excellent' in the two key areas of volume crime and reassurance.

"But we cannot afford to be complacent. The report is extremely useful as it highlights areas where we can make improvements – and we are acting on these to ensure we not only maintain but enhance the level of service we offer to local people.

"A major project to improve the way we deal with the ever-increasing number of calls from the public is already under way and, during the course of the summer, we will be targeting drink-related violent crime in our town centres as a matter of priority."

Christine Laverock, chair of Suffolk Police Authority, added: "There is a lot of extremely good news contained in this report, which reflects the hard work put in by staff and officers and their commitment to Suffolk First – the drive to make the county the safest in the country.

"Suffolk remains one of the most cost-effective police forces in the country – and this report should reassure local council taxpayers they are getting value for money."

The project to deal with rising numbers of calls – Call First – will see the recruitment of extra staff to the force operations room and a look at how calls can be dealt with more effectively. The force dealt with more than 110,000 emergency calls in 2003/04, which were answered, on average, in six seconds.

Supt Mick Warden, who is heading the project team, said: "More staff have already been taken on in the control room.

"This means we should be able to answer calls more quickly and also have more time to speak with callers, whether they are reporting a crime or require reassurance."

The project team is also looking at options including creating a separate centre for call takers, which would deal with calls sent through from the central switchboard, leaving the control room as a base for dispatchers.

Other plans include a scheme to put extra staff on duty during times of peak demand and examining new ways to give callers feedback after reporting an incident, such as mobile phone text messages.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary named the two police forces criticised in the wake of the Soham murders - Humberside and Cambridgeshire - among the worst, along with Cleveland, Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire.

"In comparison with their peers they still have a long way to go," said chief inspector Sir Keith Povey.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Tom Lloyd said: "The HMIC's assessment process is an important part of making the police accountable and I welcome it. However, it is a snapshot in time and doesn't fully reflect the turnaround in performance that we have seen in Cambridgeshire in the last twelve months.

"Most of the information in today's report is based on crime statistics up to March 2003 and interviews which were conducted by HMIC last autumn.

"Up-to-date crime figures show that since the launch of Operation Target last year and, with the support of the Police Standards Unit, performance in Cambridgeshire has really turned the corner.'

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