Police and crime commissioner elections: Surrey

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.

While the final list of candidates will be announced on 19 October, some have already announced their candidacy.

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

Surrey Police

Surrey is a county of contrasts, encompassing suburbs that border outer London and vast green areas of farmland, small towns and villages.

It is home to 1.1m people and its proximity to the capital means it is a popular location for commuters and includes many high-value homes in its famed stockbroker belt.

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 force area covers a busy section of the M25 and has two major international airports on its doorstep.

Surrey currently has 1,900 officers, 225 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), 300 special constables and about 2,300 other staff.

The focus in recent years has been on issues such as anti-social behaviour and dangerous driving, which have been highlighted in public consultations.

And their current priorities are to improve public confidence by maintaining higher levels of police presence in neighbourhoods and to provide support to victims of crime and road accidents, as well as targeting the most serious crimes, such as burglary, violence, sexual assault and car theft.

The force recently established a joint command with Sussex Police for firearms, major crime investigation, and forensics operations.

It also works with police forces in the South East on witness protection and intelligence operations.

The force is led by Chief Constable Lynne Owens.

Funding

In 2010 Surrey Police embarked on a radical programme of changes to provide more frontline officers at the expense of management, bureaucracy and support functions.

Analysis

Like all forces, Surrey police is facing the challenge of future funding and budget cuts, although it has also found itself in the spotlight for other reasons.

It has a target to save £30m by 2015 and is closing many of its local stations and selling off the buildings.

It was the only force in the country to increase officer numbers between 2010 and 2011 and has been praised by the think tank Policy Exchange for the way it deploys staff.

But it has been criticised for spending nearly £3m on external consultants in the last two years, more than other forces in the South East.

Along with West Midlands, Surrey Police made the headlines over its plan to have private companies take over "middle and back office functions", although this has now been officially dropped by the Surrey Police Authority.

The force has also found itself in the news over revelations that officers knew in 2002 that the mobile phone belonging to Milly Dowler had been hacked.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the conduct of the deputy chief constable, Craig Denholm, who led the probe into her disappearance, and Det Supt Maria Woodall, who took over as senior investigating officer in 2006.

It now has 200 extra officers and was the only force to report increased numbers in 2011/12.

The force also saved £13m, but it needs to find another £7.6m savings in the current financial year after its government support was cut by a further 6%.

It has an operating budget of £208.8m in 2012-13.

The force needs to make savings of £30m between April 2011 and March 2016.

Surrey has earned praise from police watchdog HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for its grasp of financial challenges, which has seen some police stations closed - and many of their counter services transferred to council buildings - and neighbourhood teams placed alongside local authority personnel.

And the force is now working closely with Sussex Police on some joint specialist services, including firearms and major crime investigation to pool resources and reduce overall costs.

The police authority currently overseeing it has just scrapped plans to embark on a joint venture with West Midlands Police where some "backroom" services would have been contracted out to private companies.

However Chief Constable Lynne Owens still hopes to work with other bodies - including the private sector "if appropriate" - to improve cost-effectiveness.

Crime and performance

Surrey Police had one of the lowest crime-detection rates in 2010/11 - 20.2% - although the force argues that it resolved many "informally" without charges or cautions.

It believes the additional frontline officers it has recruited will help it keep levels of serious crime in the county low.

The force said the improvement of detection rates remained a priority.

A total of 2,757 serious acquisitive and violence with injury crimes were reported between January and June 2012, a 19.3% decrease for the same period in 2011, according to Surrey Police.

There was also a 43% drop in the number of violent incidents, a 31% decrease in robberies and reductions in burglaries and vehicle crimes between January and June 2012 compared to 2011.

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