Police and crime commissioner elections: Suffolk

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 Suffolk have now officially closed.

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

Suffolk Police

There have always been bodies overseeing the work of the police, from Justices of the Peace, to "Watch Committees" but it's been the work of police authorities since 1964. Now they're to be replaced by a single Police and Crime Commissioner.

Suffolk is one of the region's smallest forces with 1174 officers. Last year, however, it had the largest decrease in police officer strength in the east, losing 3% of its officers. It also has fewer officers per thousand of population than anywhere else in the region.

Despite Suffolk Police facing significant financial challenges, crime in the county has fallen for the sixth consecutive year. Only two candidates have declared so far in the county for the Police and Crime Commissioner role.

One is fighting on a Labour ticket, one Conservative but whoever finally gets the role is bound to want to maintain Suffolk's reputation as a low crime area and preserve its constabulary as one of the lowest cost forces in the country.

The force serves a largely rural county with an area of approximately 1,500 sqm (3,900 sq km).

Its population was 728,000, according to the 2011 census - a rise of 60,000 people since the 2001 census.

The county town is Ipswich and there are many smaller towns including Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Newmarket, Sudbury, Haverhill, Mildenhall, Woodbridge and Stowmarket.

The Suffolk Police Authority's three-year Policing Plan sets the priorities as tackling organised crime groups involved in class A drug-dealing, people trafficking, immigration and tackling prostitution in the wake of the 2006 murders of five women who were sex workers.

Other priorities include reducing violent and sexual crime, anti-social behaviour, improving policing of the night-time economy in towns.

The chief constable is Simon Ash and the temporary assistant chief constable is Tim Newcomb.

Funding

Suffolk has a budget of £112.2m (2012-13) which was a cut of £4.7m on the previous year.

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

The government has set the force a target of saving £17.7m between this year and 2014-15.

The Suffolk Police Authority agreed to raise the police precept this year by 3.5% which means £116.77 for a Band D council tax payer.

The force had feared it would have to cut the number of uniformed officers, but it is now aiming to maintain the number at 1,200.

However, it intends to cut the 1,227 non-uniformed staff by 160 by the end of the savings period.

The force already shares its major investigations team with neighbouring Norfolk and aims to make further savings by more collaborative working in areas including traffic, firearms teams, finance departments, human resources, cars and estates and media communications.

Crime and performance

Police figures show that there were 45,641 recorded crimes in Suffolk in 2011-12 with a detection rate of 34%.

Suffolk Police said that is improving this year, with its latest figures showing that crime dropped by 13% to 10,491 incidents when comparing April-June 2012 with the same quarter in 2011.

This included a 21% reduction in robberies, sexual offences went down by 8.1% and violent crime was down 9.8%.

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