Challenging misconceptions is clearly important to Superintendent Andy Gipp, Peterborough’s latest police chief.
Is violent crime rising? Statistically yes, but in reality, no. Is reporting crime a lengthy process? Definitely not.
“One of the misconceptions is people fear it’s a long time to see a police officer. I can virtually guarantee that day-in day-out you can get an appointment with the police in Peterborough within 24 hours,” said the city’s fourth area commander since the start of 2014.
“I do not know many other emergency services where you can do that.”
Speaking in his first interview since replacing Supt Melanie Dales a month ago, Supt Gipp also echoed the views of fellow senior officers that violent crime is not on the rise, despite admitting that reports of it had risen by 29 per cent in the past year.
“There have been some changes in the last 12 to 18 months in crime recording standards to make us more transparent. If there’s a suggestion that a crime has been committed we’ll record it, even if there’s very little information that allows us to investigate it in any shape or form.
“Reporting has gone up which allows me to look at the real issue and tackle it. Before, we were not getting the actual report.”
The aim for the city’s police under its new chief will be: “Prioritising whatever jobs come in based on risk, getting to the most vulnerable, and attacking crime and being open and transparent in all that we do, because I firmly believe that at the heart of everything we do, we have to create confidence in our communities by being open and approachable.
“If that means recorded crime goes up, it goes up. But we can respond accordingly.”
The connection between police and public is clearly important to Supt Gipp, who in his previous role overseeing 999 and 111 calls was forced to defend the constabulary when a senior officer claimed life was “too short” to call the non-emergency number.
“People will call 101 and over 90 per cent of calls get answered in under 30 seconds, then are risk-assessed,” he said. At really busy times, when we are not going to lose anything, they might have to wait 20 to 30 minutes as we need to make sure we get to those most at risk. But we will offer to call them back.”
The misconception theme continues with burglaries. The police chief turns the tables on me, asking: “How many burglaries do you think there were in Peterborough in the last month?”
The answer is 39 (down from 91 a year earlier) a figure he feels is lower than people would expect for a city with a population nearing 200,000.
Asked why the figure was higher 12 months’ ago, Supt Gipp said: “With burglaries you only need a few people to be released from prison around about the same time and become active. It’s a core group of people that cause us the greatest pain.
“Experience shows me when they first come out, not all of them start re-offending straight away. It’s how they respond to treatment in prisons - some never re-offend, some take two to three months to re-offend and other people are relatively quick to start offending. We are clearly effective in managing those people in partnership with other agencies.”
Supt Gipp, who headed up Operation Saruman, the campaign against metal theft in the county, has spent 24 years with the police working across all of Cambridgeshire. But his respect for the Peterborough team is clear.
“My view of policing here, compared to other places I’ve worked, is that we have absolutely outstanding levels of local knowledge because the vast majority of police working here are local,” he said.
“Without a shadow of doubt in my mind that has a real impact. It’s not like the Met where they might be getting bussed in.”