Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, and Chief Constable, Garry Forsyth, welcomed Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, to Police Headquarters today (Wednesday 12 August) to meet with front line officers and celebrate outstanding results of operations against gang, gun and knife crime and drug and weapons seizures on the day the force received a major award for its effective approach to efficiency and savings.
On the Minister’s first visit to Bedfordshire Police Headquarters, Mr Malthouse met first with Commissioner Holloway and Chief Constable Garry Forsyth to hear them outline the outcome of his investment into Operation Boson - the specialist unit targeting gang, gun and knife crime which was doubled after the PCC received Special Grants of £4.514m and £3m respectively from the Home Office in the past two years.
"Kit has always asked policing to prove to him what ‘more' he gets for ‘more’ and in the case of Op Boson, targeting gang, gun and knife crime, it’s almost 500 years of prison terms in just two years, which, when this enforcement has been put together with diversion from gangs and community projects through Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) which the Minister provided with two grants of £880,000, has meant that Serious Youth Violence in this county has fallen by a fraction below 9% in the year March 2019-20.
"This is, as a result, absolutely a success that the Minister has had a share in and as it’s so essential that Boson continues at its current level of outstanding achievement, I’m very hopeful that he will approve a further Special Grant of £3.434m this coming year," said Commissioner Holloway.
The Minister then met with officers from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), which is led by Bedfordshire Police, to hear details of this unit’s recent successes including as part of Operation Venetic - one of the UK’s largest ever joint operations to combat serious and organised crime with the National Crime Agency (NCA). Bedfordshire Police worked alongside colleagues from ERSOU to run intensive days of police action which resulted in hauls of more than 90 kilos of Class A drugs, seven firearms and over £180,000 in cash in Bedfordshire alone.
"By far and away the highest proportion of the Organised Crime Groups who were discovered by hacking into a protected criminal mobile phone network across the entire region were based in this county, in Luton. This joint working between Bedfordshire Police, ERSOU and the NCA has flushed out serious criminality and made this county a deeply inhospitable place for these gangs to operate in and it has been a pleasure to show the Minister the precise results of this in picture after picture of guns, ammunition, packages of Class A drugs and supermarket carrier bags stuffed with cash," said PCC Holloway.
Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: "It was a pleasure to host the Policing Minister and showcase all the good work we are doing as a force and in partnership with our regional assets, across the policing landscape.
"The Minister has backed us with extra funding secured by the PCC to combat gangs, organised crime and exploitation and it was great to be able to demonstrate the hugely impressive results we have achieved with this money, as well as illustrating the scale of demand we face in this area here in Bedfordshire and the need for that continued support.
"It was also good to highlight the direction of travel and improvements we want to make as a force over the coming months, such as growing our workforce and making it truly representative of our communities. The Minister got to spend some time with some of our newest recruits and I know he was impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm.
"I really hope Mr Malthouse enjoyed his time with us and we all hope to welcome him back to Bedfordshire soon."
The Policing Minister also visited officers from the Op Boson unit which, since its launch in 2018, has carried out 300 search warrants, arrested more than 400 suspects and seized 47 firearms, 23 imitation firearms, 1,252 rounds of viable ammunition, 7.3 kilos of Class A and 11.4 kilos of Class B drugs as well as more than £156,000 in cash. Mr Malthouse continued his visit by accompanying newly recruited officers who were on patrol around Bedford Town Centre to understand how the investment in policing from the Home Office is working locally at neighbourhood level.
"The Minister understands fully, having seen the results for himself, that his investment in Bedfordshire Police so far has truly paid off. Until this force’s share of the outdated national police funding pot is corrected with re-working of the funding formula for all forces there is no sustainable future for either Op Boson or, frankly, the force itself which is why, in the interim, the Special Grant funding for our work against serious violence is so essential.
"In the longer term, we need to come to a position where the particularly serious crime that is faced here counts for more than the overall number of crimes, which is what is currently rewarded by the central police funding mechanism. This would always mean that the largest metropolitan areas and police forces would gain most and those like our own would be penalised, simply as we also have large rural areas to police, with smaller populations.
"We would like nothing more than to receive special funding for two or three years and clear up Organised Crime once and for all but the value of drugs markets in particular, plus those involving human trafficking and the sex and weapons trade are a clear business opportunity for another group once we have dealt with the earlier threat. Crime will not stop but neither will the efforts of Bedfordshire Police which, despite its size - with less than 1,300 officers - has been racking up the results against such gangs in a way that would be the envy of far larger forces," said Commissioner Holloway.
The Minister was also briefed on the receipt of a prestigious Management Consultancies Association (MCA) award for Bedfordshire Police’s work with consultants PwC in a process called Priority Based Budgeting to examine every single officer and member of staff and item of expenditure across all departments to identify any possible savings and precisely establish which services to the public can be afforded on its current income and which would need to be cut if income fell.
"It’s absolutely essential to prove to Government that money is not wasted and that a police force understands its business, demand and expenditure and that’s just what we’ve been able to demonstrate both through this award and the conclusions of the completely independent policing consultancy, Crest Advisory, that looked at our demand against current police numbers here in Bedfordshire. Today gave us the opportunity to present this evidence to the Minister and we were delighted to do so," said PCC Holloway.