Suffolk: Passmore gets to grips with role as police commissioner

SUFFOLK’S first Police and Crime Commissioner was officially sworn in at the end of November – but already Tim Passmore has had to get down to planning his priorities for the next three years.

Mr Passmore was elected to the new position after a controversial election – turnout was spectacularly low and he finished second in the first round of voting before eventually pipping Labour candidate Jane Basham when second preference votes were counted.

There was little time to get settled into his new office on the top floor of police headquarters in Martlesham – he has to produce a draft policing plan for the next three years which has to be published by the middle of January.

That will include the council tax precept that the police will need for the next year – and will also outline his policing priorities for his term of office.

Once published, there will be an opportunity for the public to comment, before the budget is set by the end of February.

Mr Passmore is working on the budget – but is sure of one thing: “There will be no increase in our council tax element of the budget.

“The Home Secretary has told us she has protected police budgets – there will be a reduction in the overall Home Office budget, but not in policing.”

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Suffolk is seen as a low-crime area, but there are still parts of the county that need special attention.

Mr Passmore said: “We have Felixstowe Docks, the largest container port in the country, Sizewell, Wattisham, Adastral Park and Orbis Energy in Lowestoft – they are all nationally-important locations that we have to ensure remain secure.

“And while Suffolk is a relatively low crime area we have a clear-up rate of only about 30% of recorded crime – and it is estimated that only about 50% of crime is reported.”

He said he wanted to work with other agencies to improve the detection and clear-up rate – but it was vital that Suffolk Police retained its own identity.

Mr Passmore has already met Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett who has spoken of the importance of the two forces co-operating.

“I am very keen on seeing increasing co-operation on major investigations and when each force needs support from the other.

“We had officers from Suffolk helping with the double shooting in Cromer, and they had officers helping with a recent murder case in Ipswich.”

But local policing remained important: “We have to retain local control of policing, officers locally know the area and know the people – that is very important,” Mr Passmore said.

Unlike some of his colleagues across the region, he is unlikely to appoint a deputy – and is not expecting to increase the number of staff who were previously employed by the old police authority.

Mr Passmore said: “We have eight full-time equivalent staff working for the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office. I don’t see any need to increase that.

“I can understand why commissioners in some larger areas – like Essex or Thames Valley – need to have deputies but I don’t see any need to appoint one here.”

He is keen to see more technology introduced to speed up police work – but said nothing can substitute for local knowledge.

One area where he would like to see technology helping is with the early investigation of accidents so officers can reopen roads quicker after crashes.

And he feels there is a use for speed cameras in some places: “The camera at Coddenham on the A140 has prevented accidents and I have asked to see whether the camera at Brome could have helped with the fatal accident there recently had it been switched on.

“But I would not want to see them as cash cows – I’m not sure that the camera that used to be at Stonham served any purpose.”

Mr Passmore lives in Mid Suffolk – he stood down as the local council leader after his election – and feels his experience of life in the county is vital.

He said: “I’ve lived here all my life, I went to school in Ipswich and I know most parts of Suffolk pretty well. I think that is very important when it comes to setting out the aims in the policing plan.”

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