Policing is a diverse business these days. Gone is an era, if it ever really existed, when it was just about catching criminals and locking them up.
Many of you will have read about recent flooding with the associated road closures and then, worse still, a large sinkhole appearing perilously close to homes in Hemel Hempstead.
As well as showing the surprising dangers that can exist all around us, these incidents demonstrate how police get involved in all sorts of issues – from public safety to tracing missing people, crime prevention, safeguarding vulnerable people, protecting victims, dealing with road traffic collisions.
One story you may have spotted is how HMP The Mount in Bovingdon is becoming one of the new ‘resettlement prisons’ under national plans to shake up how offenders are rehabilitated.
These jails will house prisoners in the final months of their sentence before they are released.
The aim of the reforms is to enable the authorities that deal with prisoners following their release greater access to them while they are still behind bars, so that there can be a smoother transition from inside to outside.
The plan at first was for The Mount to act as a resettlement prison for offenders from London, while Hertfordshire’s prisoners would have placed in a Suffolk jail.
While I fully supported the aims, I argued that having them in Hertfordshire rather than Suffolk would be better still and would maximise the effectiveness of the changes in our county.
This is a point I made to the Ministry of Justice and I’m pleased to say that they agreed.
Police will have greater access to local offenders while they are in jail, so they can help clear up more crimes, while the offenders will be better supervised on their release and will have the best chance of breaking the cycle of re-offending.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Dacorum recently and at a recent Community Safety Forum meeting held in Hemel Hempstead, I was pleased to note that the latest crime figures show overall crime in the borough is down by more than a third and burglary was down by a fifth.
As an aside, there has been some doubt recently about the reliability of crime statistics – I am assured by Chief Constable Andy Bliss that his force has robust crime recording in place.
I am continuing to monitor the situation but I think residents can be reassured that the National Crime Survey – which is completely independent of police – also shows that crime has generally been going down.
While the decision on The Mount prison does not necessary fit in with a ‘cops and robbers’ view of policing, I have no doubt it will have a positive impact on the levels of crime in the future.
And as I’ve written in this column before, less crime means fewer victims.
I am proud of this achievement and although the majority of residents probably wouldn’t care greatly where prisoners are kept before their release, I believe this is a step forward in crime prevention and the county will reap the benefits in the years to come.