Newsletter February 2017

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New budget to protect frontline policing

The budget for 2017/18 was formally agreed at West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Panel in early February. The new budget allows for key recruitment of 500 police officers (200 additional, the rest to cover those expected to retire) and protection of Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) numbers at over 550. The recruitment will be funded by a slight increase, 3.43%, in the police element of Council Tax which equates to around an extra £4 a year, or less than 8 pence a week for most households in West Yorkshire. Before finalising the budget, I launched a Community Conversation consultation with the communities in West Yorkshire on whether they would support an increase as long as it paid for more frontline policing. The consultation received 2076 responses with 77% stating that they would support an increase of up to a cash limit of £5 (Band D) afforded to the lowest precept areas. I'd like to thank the public of West Yorkshire who overwhelmingly supported this increase in the police element of Council Tax. West Yorkshire is still an area with one of the lowest levels of Police Council Tax in the country, however, the decision to raise it wasn't taken lightly and I am very aware of the financial pressures facing our communities. It's crucial that West Yorkshire Police continue to have the resources to be able to provide the service our communities rightly expect and deserve to keep them safe and feeling safe.

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Seized cash will help communities

More than £20,000 in cash recovered during a drugs warrant in Bradford has been forfeited to the courts. Officers recovered £23,332 in cash while executing the warrant at a house in Cecil Avenue in February 2013. The cash was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act and last month Leeds magistrates granted a forfeiture order on the balance of probability that the cash was intended for criminal use. The money will now be put back into communities through local policing operations and my Safer Communities Fund. This is more fantastic work from West Yorkshire Police and the courts in making sure crime doesn't pay. Some of this recovered money will now go towards my Safer Communities Fund, which puts proceeds of crime back into our communities to provide support to victims, tackle crime and anti-social behaviour and safeguard vulnerable people. Since the Fund launched, over £1.5 million of recovered money has been given back to good causes here in West Yorkshire.

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New victims hub opens in Kirklees

Victims of crime can call in to get advice if they feel they have witnessed or suffered physical or emotional harm, monetary loss or wrong doing. The drop-in service based at Brian Jackson House in Huddersfield launched in January. I have been working in partnership to set up victims hubs across West Yorkshire so that victims and witnesses have a designated place to go for information, advice and support. I am delighted to have provided matched partnership funding towards this project in Kirklees. I have pledged to put victims first in West Yorkshire and this new service in Kirklees does exactly that in providing further access to victims services in Huddersfield and across Kirklees. It's crucial that we work together to provide the best possible services and Safer Kirklees and Victim Support have been instrumental in bringing this new help for victims and witnesses to the people of Kirklees. To find your more about your local victims hub visit Victim Support's website or call them on 0300 303 1971.

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PCCs call on Jeremy Hunt to "scrap the fee" for domestic violence doctor's note

I joined 15 other PCCs across the country calling on Health Minister Jeremy Hunt to scrap the fee charged to domestic abuse victims seeking legal aid. Due to recent legislation changes, domestic abuse victims now have to apply for legal aid. However to qualify for support they need to provide specific evidence to prove that they have been subjected to such abuse. One of the accepted forms of evidence is a letter from a GP - a letter that some GPs are charging fees to provide. The concerns raised by Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson's "scrap the fee" campaign have been echoed by Greater Manchester Mayor and PCC Tony Lloyd who called on the support of his fellow PCCs to demand a fair process for abuse victims. We need to make sure there are absolutely no barriers to reporting domestic abuse, victims have already been through enough without further emotional and financial pressures. Not all GPs apply these charges, and the amounts being charged vary. But to ensure that victims receive a consistent and fair service across the UK, the campaign is calling for the service to be provided under the NHS so the fees are abolished.

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Children's Commissioner's Takeover Challenge

Matthew, aged 15, from Pontefract in Wakfield, asked to work with me as part of the Children's Commissioner's Takeover Challenge. The challenge sees young people taking over top roles and sitting in the hot seat of influential jobs. Matthew's Takeover Challenge kicked off with a tour of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and a chance to meet with the staff and discuss their roles. Matthew then accompanied me to a meeting with my Independent Custody Visitors (pictured), who volunteer to check on the welfare of detained persons in custody, and the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Dee Collins. Matthew then joined me on a visit to St Mary's Community Centre in Pontefract where we engaged with the local community on their policing and community safety needs. It was great to be able to offer this opportunity to Matthew and it was a really productive day. Youth engagement is crucial, young people have as much to offer as any other members of our communities and I will continue to take their views into account when making decisions.

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Protect the protectors

I have put my support behind the Protect the Protectors campaign which is looking to offer further protection from assaults to emergency service workers. Attacks on police officers and other emergency service workers are deplorable and I know the overwhelming majority of our communities agree with that. The campaign to protect the protectors has three key points; to improve recording of assaults on officers and staff across England and Wales, toughen up sentencing rules and support for more sustainable funding into key services like policing. Understandably this campaign was quick to receive widespread support and traction in parliament with West Yorkshire (Halifax) MP Holly Lynch leading a Ten Minute Rule Bill debate which aimed to highlight the need for greater protection to police officers and other front line emergency service workers and tougher sentences for offenders. I have met with Holly Lynch MP and the West Yorkshire Police Federation to discuss this campaign in finer detail and have raised it with other Police and Crime Commissioners and at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) general meeting last month where there was also general support. Most of all I would ask for everyone to spare a moment and think of the thousands of officers and emergency service staff keeping us all safe across England and Wales and have a look at the campaign to see how you can get involved.

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Hate crime reporting app

Stop Hate UK have launched a free hate crime reporting app. The App is available on Android and IOS platforms by going to Google Play or the Apple App Store and searching for 'Stop Hate UK'. Find out more about it here:  http://www.stophateuk.org/report-hate-crime/west-yorkshire-hate-crime-reporting-app

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