A STRING of recent terror attacks across the UK has inevitably heightened public concerns about safety.

During a time of enhanced security concerns, it wouldn’t be wise to cut police officer numbers any further. Between 2010/11 and 2017/18 we have seen a 27 per cent cut in police funding from the UK Government in Gwent and a reduction of around 20,000 officers in England and Wales. Following the General Election, we are still no clearer with regards to funding for policing and we will have to wait and see what the implications are.

To ensure we have a sufficient number of officers in Gwent, I increased

the precept, the part of the council tax that goes to Gwent Police, earlier this year.

This will enable the service to recruit 120 new police officers during the course of the next year to help maintain frontline policing and invest in tackling emerging crimes such as cybercrime. These officers will replace those who have retired or have left the service already.  

Despite the backdrop of challenging budgets for policing, the increase in cybercrime has meant that we have also had to upskill our officers in Gwent to deal with these crimes. More than 50 per cent of crime recorded now has an online element and cybercrime is the new serious and organised crime. This includes online scams, identity fraud and sexual exploitation. A significant amount of the budget I have allocated to Gwent Police is directed towards tackling and preventing cybercrime.

The bulk of online crime comes in the trafficking of child abuse images and this is why Gwent Police established the Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) in 2016, a dedicated unit to eliminate lengthy investigations into child abuse images. We have police officers and highly skilled digital forensics staff proactively seeking out those using the internet to view and exchange images of child sex abuse.

The unit has had considerable success in placing attention on relevant evidence to ensure that convictions are achieved swiftly. 

As Commissioner, you can rest assured that I will continue to support Gwent Police in utilising and investing in the latest technology so it can pursue and arrest those who prey on people online.

I would also like to congratulate Gwent Police on the huge amount of work it has undertaken to improve the service people receive when contacting 101, the police non-emergency number. Concerns about the quality of the service were among the most common issues raised with me during my election campaign. A year ago, the average waiting time for a caller was seven minutes and there were examples of people waiting up to 45 minutes. Following a comprehensive programme of change, we now have a much more positive picture and the average waiting time for callers is now one minute and fifty seconds, with the call abandonment rate also reduced by more than half. The picture continues to improve.