Chief Constable Andy Cooke responds to comments from Cllr Emily Spurrell

Merseyside / August 07

Merseyside Police Chief Constable has today defended the work of his officers in local communities following comments made by one of the candidates to replace the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Cllr Emily Spurrell, who has put herself forward as a nominee to become the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside when Jane Kennedy steps down, is quoted in the Liverpool Echo as saying “I think there are certain communities like Anfield, like Croxteth, like Birkenhead where we know crime is happening but people there only ever see the police when there is an emergency – but they don’t have any positive relationships with them.”

Chief Constable Andy Cooke, said: “I’m really disappointed that Emily has taken this approach. As Deputy PCC for 18 months she spent a significant amount of that time working alongside Merseyside Police. She saw first-hand the sterling work being carried out by officers on the ground day in, day out, and should know better than anyone how hard this force is working to keep our communities safe.

“There is no doubt that the force is facing some major challenges in relation to serious violent crime and serious organised crime, whilst at the same time working with 25 per cent less officers and staff. I’ll be honest it’s a struggle, but at the end of the day we’re not complaining we’re getting on with it and doing some hard graft.

“And that hard graft is paying off. Yes, we have had a recent increase in violent crime involving knife and gun crime in the last couple of weeks, but we are responding to that. Officers are working longer hours to target those involved and make our streets safe. But there’s no recognition from Emily about the demands being faced by a force that has seen its staffing reduced by 25 per cent and the commitment and the dedication of the people who are still working for the force.

“She forgets that the majority of my officers and staff not only work in Merseyside, but live in Merseyside and are passionate about the area where they work – their families live here, go to school here, socialise here and like the rest of the public in Merseyside have a vested interest in keeping it safe.”

He continued: “If you actually look at Croxteth, Anfield and Birkenhead we are seeing the green shoots of the seeds we have sown. In Anfield all crime has decreased by nearly seven per cent (down 6.72 per cent) for the first seven months of this year compared to the same period last year; in Birkenhead there has been an increase in all crime of 4.38 per cent; whilst in Croxteth all crime has decreased by 19.35 per cent. More than a year ago we were seeing a rise in domestic burglary, and during the last financial year as a result of the work we’ve undertaken we saw a decrease of 24.1 percent in home burglaries, which meant there were 2000 less victims of burglary. At the same time we saw an increase in the number of burglary offenders being charged, or summonsed to court, which was better than any of the forces of a similar size. I’m pleased to say that in the first seven months of this year that home burglaries are continuing to decrease and between January and July this year we have seen a reduction in offences of 25 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

“These decreases have not been achieved without hard work by my officers in the community. If you look at Anfield, one of the areas referred to by Councillor Spurrell, Sergeant Dave Whalley has been the Community Sergeant there for more than 10 years, and he and his team have built successful partnerships which are making a difference in the community. In fact, Sergeant Whalley received the Queen’s Police Medal in the Queen’s Honours last year after being nominated by partners including Jo Matthews from the City who works very closely with him to build community cohesion. The citizen panel takes place at Anfield stadium every six weeks and is attended by representatives from numerous residents groups who Dave has spent years supporting. Some of these groups are from the Pinehurst Avenue area and ‘Rawdon’ and ‘Cobra’ areas, all different areas within Anfield where the Police Community Support Officers, who have all been in the organisation for more than 10 years, are well acquainted with residents and shopkeepers.

“Every three weeks a surgery is held at St. Columba’s church hall and the local policing team have built good links with the staff working in the office of Dan Carden MP, spending time at the office for drop-in sessions and responding to concerns raised by the public directly to the MP. Dave is also leading on a ‘participatory budget’ event to be held at Anfield, using violence reduction funding to allow the public to have a say on how money should be spent to help us improve their community.

“Working with partners the local team organises regular days and weeks of action to improve the area by clearing alleyways, providing skips for disposal of rubbish, working with MFRS to leaflet and identify vulnerable premises/people, all with the intention of building community confidence and cohesion. They meet with the local councillors at least weekly, acting on concerns they raise. Recently Councillor Billy Marrat raised concerns about aggressive begging at the shops on Utting Avenue, the man involved was issued with a Community Protection Notice after aggressively begging.

“The team also works closely with the Force Intelligence Bureau, Matrix and the targeted team to gather intelligence and take positive action around serious organised crime. As a result there have been some significant arrests, including the recent arrests and charges of Kevin Weetman and Joe Hamblin, who are now both on remand for drugs supply.

“This work is replicated in Croxteth and Birkenhead. In Birkenhead officers have been working with partner organisations on a daily basis to forge strong links within the community. There is some good partnership work taking place with Tomorrow Women’s Wirral, who support vulnerable women in the Birkenhead area, The HIVE youth club and the Birkenhead Business Improvement District (BID). Indeed, we have recently appointed a dedicated town centre officer funded by the BID. We also have dedicated officers working with the faith communities on the Wirral. Our Pathfinder program involves close work with local schools across the Wirral seeking to build relationships and divert young people away from crime. This programme started in Birkenhead on the foundation of a strong working relationship with local partners and councillors.

“The neighbourhood team run regular days of actions working with different parts of the Birkenhead area, recent examples are the ones run in the Bentick Street area and the Woodlands estate where the community came together to run clean ups and fun days alongside the police and other partners.

“Targeting crime is our key priority, enforcement action is perpetual. In the last six months 15 Misuse of Drugs Act Warrants have been executed within Birkenhead alone, culminating in the seizure of large amounts of drugs. Just last week we recovered 2.5kg of Class A drugs, £20,000 in cash and five suspected stolen motorbikes following the execution of a warrant at a garage complex.

“We recognise organised crime as a priority and have secured three gang injunctions in the last six months against key members of one gang. As I have already said we have seen decreases across the force in relation to burglary and the recent arrest and sentence of Liam Brennan to four years in prison following a series of burglaries in Birkenhead is evidence of our efforts to reduce burglary.

“There are enduring partnership links and close work within hard to reach and vulnerable members of the community. We work closely with other 3rd sector organisations such as the Charles Thompson Mission who provide support to the homeless and other vulnerable members of the Birkenhead area. There is a lot of work going on in this area at the moment and next month Frank Field, MP, will be joining our neighbourhood officers out on patrol in Birkenhead to see for himself what we do.

“Everything I have talked about shows how we can’t work alone in helping to improve our communities and decrease crime. We need to work together and we need the help of our communities. But our communities also need help and investment and that is why I made the decision three years ago to give Community Cashback to local communities to help improve their areas. The cash is illicit earnings seized from local criminals, and communities are able to bid for that money for schemes designed to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in their area. Since it started in 2017 £782,262 has been given to various community schemes across the county, which have included programmes to divert young people away from crime (diversionary schemes involving boxing, Scouts, the Duke of Edinburgh scheme; football and many more); offender management programmes, counselling services and workshops for the vulnerable and disabled.

“I know I may have gone on, but I realise that quite often just stating statistics doesn’t show the full picture. I hope the activity I have referred to illustrates that my officers are a constant factor in our communities and they are dedicated and committed to keeping our communities safe. We don’t just turn up when there’s a problem, we are employed to keep the public safe 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year and that is what we will continue to do.”