After meeting Gosport residents, Hampshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner Donna Jones talked exclusively to Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas about the views and comments she heard and there was a hint that Gosport may again have a police station…
DESPITE the rain and wind, more than 30 people turned up to talk to Hampshire & the Isle of Wight’s Police & Crime Commissioner during her visit to Gosport last Saturday – January 8.
As reported in The Globe, Donna Jones had been invited by Town ward Councillor Lesley Meenaghan and was in the Discovery Centre to listen to residents’ views on crime and policing in the borough.
Ms Jones said: “We had 30 or 40 residents turn up at the beginning which is fantastic. Really, really good strong support for the community beat surgery we have done today.
“Residents raised a number of issues: they wanted an update on the Gosport police station and I explained that my priority number two is to increase police visibility.”
Her priorities and pledges are set out in More Police Safer Streets.
The second priority is: “Improve police visibility – bringing policing to your community”, and achieving that includes, “better locate police buildings on high streets, making them accessible to the public”.
Later in the meeting she said: “I’m looking at different buildings and sites around Gosport.”
Role of the Police & Crime Commissioner
However, the PCC cannot herself deliver a police station; that would be the decision of the county’s Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney.
The role of the commissioner is, “to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account”. In particular, as Ms Jones stressed on several occasions, she cannot interfere in operational decisions.
Therefore, while she pointed to an increase of more than 600 police officers in Hampshire by the end of the spring in 2023, she could not be sure exactly how many would be in Gosport.
However, she added: “There has already been an increase in Gosport’s local policing… and specialist units that support Gosport behind the scenes.”
Policies for reducing youth offending
Other issues that Gosport residents brought to the commissioner included the problems of anti-social behaviour, shoplifting, and youth offending.
On the last concern, Ms Jones emphasised what she admitted would be a long-term policy.
She said: “I have secured £460,000 from the Home Office… and we are training up 1,700 public sector workers – midwives, public health workers and others like that – to look for the trigger points of families where they are really, really not coping.
“[Then] get in and support those families now to prevent young children from growing to be quite angry 15-16 year-olds who want to steal cars and take drugs.”
Similarly, with current young offenders – especially first-time entrants to the criminal justice system – her view is, “rather than criminalising a young person who has perhaps stolen a moped, why don’t we sit down and speak to them to find out what’s going on, what’s led to that?
“Let’s perhaps link them up with a mentor – an appropriate adult who can really be their sound-off board… to explain to them there is an alternative to criminality.”
It was a subject that concerned some Gosport residents. However, the commissioner said it was “refreshing” that several came to the discussion with constructive ideas of what could be done.
This included, she said, a representative of the New Foundations Community Chaplaincy which provides support for prison leavers.
Memorial Hospital premature deaths investigation
Nobody attending the meeting with the commissioner raised Operation Magenta – the investigation by Kent Constabulary into the premature deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.
When asked by The Globe, Ms Jones said her role was: “To make sure we have the money to pay for the significant investigation… [and] making sure the victims who died prematurely… and their families and their loved ones are represented.
“So families get the justice they deserve.”
However, she added: “I would not dream of trying to get involved in the direction of the police investigation. It is outside my legal remit.
“My job is to make sure that a full and proper job is done and the police have the resources to do that.”
There are regular updates from Metropolitan Police Service Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Jerome, who is leading the investigation, and she has recently been contacted by some of the families involved in what she described as a “tragedy”.
Finally, when thanking everyone who had attended the session last Saturday, the commissioner said anyone can contact her about a crime and policing matter by using a form on the OPCC website, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or telephoning 01962 871595.
A crime should be reported by telephoning 101.
Photograph (top): Hampshire & Isle of Wight Police & Crime Commissioner Donna Jones (second from right) discussing her More Police Safer Streets plan with Town ward Councillor Lesley Meenaghan, with Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage and Gosport Borough Council’s representative on the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel Councillor John Beavis watching on