A Yorkshire police chief constable has vowed to do more to protect people in “their own front rooms” as well as out on the streets of the region as he announced plans to spend £3 million more a year on tackling offences against the vulnerable.
Among the plans revealed by North Yorkshire Police are proposals to set up a dedicated team to investigate allegations of historical sexual abuse and “substantially” expand the unit which deals with serious violent and sexual offences.
The force will also increase the number of officers in its digital forensics unit, which investigate cases involving modern technology, and its integrated offender management team to help stop re-offending.
The extra investment comes after concerns were raised that forces nationwide are not doing enough to tackle domestic abuse, sexual abuse and online exploitation from happening behind closed doors.
It comes after police forces nationwide, who had been expecting to have their budgets cut by up to 40 per cent, received a better-than-expected funding settlement from Chancellor George Osborne in last year’s comprehensive spending review.
Last month crime commissioner Julia Mulligan announced that the force would increase its manpower from 1,343 to 1,400 officers, though it will still have 86 fewer officers than in 2010.
With domestic and sexual abuse on the rise, and the internet providing increased opportunities for offenders, we have to think about how we can protect people in their own homes, as well as out in their communities.North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Dave Jones
The new strategy will see an extra £3.3m spent per year to “boost the force’s ability to protect vulnerable people such as victims of violent and sexual crimes, domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation”.
Around 100 additional officers and members of staff will be recruited, and many will be online specialists with no previous experience of policing.
Mrs Mulligan said the investment would help the force tackle cyber-crime and online fraud, as well as improving training and welfare support for officers and staff who work with the vulnerable.
She told The Yorkshire Post that the force still would have made the investment had its budget been slashed, but that it would have had to cut back in other areas.
She said: “In drawing up the Police and Crime Plan, the public of North Yorkshire clearly told me their number one priority is to protect vulnerable people. This includes a better response to people with mental health issues, tackling child sexual exploitation, online crime and fraud. All of which are contributing to increasing demands on our police service.
“The force has been carefully considering its approach to these issues for a while now, however it is fair to say that over recent weeks, we have been greatly assisted by our improved finances. In short, we are in a much better position to invest in this crucial area of policing.
“As well as the increase in reported abuse and other crimes, the police are having to deal with exponential growth in the use of smartphones and tablets which may need to be forensically examined.
“This combination of factors - including tackling child sexual exploitation - requires significant policing resources. North Yorkshire is not alone in this respect. The £3 million investment being announced today means the police are in a better position than ever to protect vulnerable people, especially children, here in North Yorkshire.”
She said the team investigating historic sexual abuse would not just be looking at offenders such as Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli, who have since died, but also abusers who are still in touch with their victims.
An investigation by North Yorkshire Police into ice cream magnate Jaconelli in 2014 revealed that he would have faced a string of charges relating to abuse in Scarborough between 1958 and 1998 if he was still alive.
Jaconelli and his friend, disgraced Leeds-born DJ Savile, were suspected of being involved in the abuse of 35 young victims as part of a paedophile ring operating in the resort but cheated justice. The force has since apologised for missing opportunities to stop the abuse at the time.
Chief Constable Dave Jones said: “During the last year several reviews including by the HMIC found that most forces – including North Yorkshire Police – have more to do when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable people in our society from crime such as domestic abuse, sexual abuse and online exploitation.
“Today explains how we intend to meet this challenge, having spent some time considering the right approach, that ensures greater protection for vulnerable people here in North Yorkshire.
“The internet provides for increased opportunities for offenders, investigative challenges for policing and new ways of thinking about how we can protect people in their own homes, as well as out in their communities. The frontline in tackling such crimes is more and more in our own front rooms.
“This will take time to achieve, because we want to make sure we are bringing in the right skills for the job – and that may mean looking outside the traditional ‘police’ skillset for some roles.
“Tackling vulnerability is one of the biggest challenges facing the police service as a whole, but expanding our capacity in the way we plan to do will strengthen our hand in dealing with these significant issues. The uplift is the right investment utilising the opportunity created by the new financial position.”