Police and crime commissioner elections: Hampshire

Southampton Central police station A new centralised service centre was created at Southampton police station

On 15 November 37 police and crime commissioners will be elected in England along with four in Wales.

The PCCs, as they will be known, will be tasked with scrutinising their force and holding it to account. They will also be able to hire and dismiss the chief constable and set the force's budget.

The commissioners will be paid and are supposed to empower local people into having a say on how crime is tackled in their area.

Nominations for candidates in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have now officially closed.

BBC News has taken a look at each of the police forces ahead of the elections.

Hampshire Constabulary

Hampshire Constabulary is responsible for the counties of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, covering 1,600 sq miles with a population of about 1.9m people.

Hampshire's make-up includes the major port cities of Portsmouth and Southampton as well as the historic city of Winchester and about more than 200 miles (322km) of coast.

With the largest helmet badge of any police force in England and Wales, Hampshire and Isle of Wight's police constables certainly stand out.

And they've got a big job to do - 220 miles of motorway and trunk roads, 253 miles of coastline, and whilst there are no major metropolitan areas, the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth in the south and towns Aldershot and Farnborough in the north see their fair share of serious crime.

Budget cuts mean reductions of 1,300 staff over five years. The headquarters building at Winchester is being sold to help meet £54m savings targets. But the force has the sixth lowest cost per head and is already merging dog units, firearms, roads and training with neighbouring Thames Valley Police.

Closure of rural stations and limited hours of opening have led to some protests. The force covers a wide range of diverse communities including the Isle of Wight and New Forest National Park.

The sheer variety of the policing challenge is demonstrated by two fictional Hampshire detectives, from the country crime tackled on TV by Ruth Rendell's Romsey-based Inspector Wexford to the gritty work of DI Joe Faraday in Graham Hurley's crime novels set in Portsmouth.

It is also home to the New Forest National Park and part of the South Downs National Park, which stretches into West Sussex.

The Isle of Wight is the largest island in England. It is largely rural, with more than 50 miles (80km) of coast.

The force has its headquarters in Winchester and it consists of 3,470 police officers, 1,896 police staff, 336 police community support officers (PCSOs), 525 special constables and 360 volunteers.

The number of officers in the force has fallen from 3,785 in 2010, while the number of volunteer special constables has risen from 420 in the same period.

In terms of the policing priorities, the force has said in its 2012-15 policing plan that a key priority is to deal effectively with terrorism, serious crime and other major challenges to public safety. Management of sex offenders and potentially dangerous offenders is also a priority.

These priorities were set after feedback from the public.

Since 2010, Hampshire Constabulary has begun sharing increasing levels of resources and staff with Thames Valley Police in a cost-cutting move which has seen the forces share services such as forensics and IT systems and merge their roads policing, training, firearms and dog units.

Hampshire Police launched Operation Fortress at the end of May 2012, aimed at tackling drug-related violence in Southampton. In the three months since it started, officers have seized more than £35,000-worth of drugs, made 70 arrests and seized £74,000 in cash.

The operation also aims to work with councils and other agencies to tackle the root causes of illegal drug use, which is particularly prevalent in Southampton.

In April, the force's police chief admitted officers were "absolutely stretched" as they investigated three suspected murders committed in the space of five days.

Funding

Timetable for PCC Elections

  • There are 41 police and crime commissioner elections taking place - 37 in police force areas in England and four in Wales
  • No elections will take place in Scotland, Northern Ireland or London
  • Nominations for candidates will close on 19 October
  • Voting takes places on 15 November
  • PCCs will be elected every four years

For 2012-13, the police budget was set at £305.6m, which was a reduction of £8.5m from 2011-12.

As part of the budget, Hampshire Police Authority agreed to freeze the policing element of council tax in return for a government grant of £3m.

The authority said the budget included savings of £20m, many of which were made during the last financial year by reducing the number of back office staff in areas such as IT and human resources.

Around £6.5m of savings were made in this area, mainly through the introduction of a new centralised service centre already in operation at Southampton Central police station.

A further £3.1m of savings has been found by using more efficient ways of gathering intelligence and £2.8m has been saved by closing police stations and front offices.

The authority said there had been no reduction in the number of officers in the review and that officers and PCSOs would still be available at beat surgeries and by appointment.

The authority said further investment had been made to increase the number of officers and staff to investigate people believed to be making money through criminal activity.

The force needs to find cumulative savings of £55m in the four years to 2015.

The police authority set its own budget at £1.5m.

Crime and performance

Crime across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight fell by 2.9% in 2011-12 compared with the previous year, according to Hampshire Constabulary.

Criminal damage was down 8.9%, house burglary fell 4% and there were 12.8% fewer vehicle crimes.

According to Home Office figures of police recorded crime, there were 30,478 "violence against the person" offences recorded in 2011-12 in the two counties, 1,545 fewer than 2010-11.

There were also 950 robberies - 112 fewer than the previous year - and 4,994 burglaries, down 188 on the previous year. There were 1,211 vehicles stolen - down from 1,643 in 2010-11.

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