PCC Blog 76

E-scooters had never entered my consciousness until a few days ago.

Then I had a close encounter with one in the town centre. The rider came up behind me on a pedestrianised street and whooshed past, narrowly avoiding me and another person. A few days later an MP wrote asking what the legal position was as some of his constituents were reporting similar incidents. I asked the police.

The legal position is clear. Electric powered scooters fall within the legal definition of a motor vehicle with the same rules applying to them. The driver must have a licence and the vehicle must be taxed and insured. At present, they can only be used on private land (with the landowner’s permission) or rented for use on those public roads and cycle lanes where there is a government approved trial going on. Otherwise, you will probably be committing an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 or, if you scoot on a pavement, under the Highway Act 1835. There are no trials taking place in South Yorkshire, so anyone riding them here is almost certainly breaking the law. They could be prosecuted.

Some scooters can reach speeds of up to 70mph – which seems extraordinary. The person who went past me wasn’t doing that, but when you are sauntering along Fargate on a Saturday morning, and one passes you from behind unexpectedly and closely, it certainly felt like that!

I am not sure whether this is a growing or emerging issue in the county, so if something similar happens to you, please let me know.

Shopping criminals

Last week I met with the National Federation of Independent Retailers – the body that speaks for small shopkeepers, of whom we have many hundreds in South Yorkshire. We talked about retail crime – shoplifting, thefts, burglaries, assaults and so on. I was accompanied by Inspector Danielle Spencer, who is part of the Sheffield city centre team, and PC Tony Nicholls, a SPOC (Single Point of Contact) for retail crime. The force has also just appointed a lead officer, Chief Inspector Gareth Thomas. There is a new determination by the police to be more pro-active around retail crime.

Adrian Roper from the NFIR pointed out how vulnerable the independent retailer can be. They cannot afford the security that the bigger store may have, and they will not have a police station and police officers on site, like Meadowhall. So they need an efficient way of reporting. But it is almost impossible to mind the shop while dialling 101 or filling in a long report on-line. As a result, there is considerable under-reporting of retail crime. Yet, as the police pointed out, if there is under-reporting, intelligence is lost and patterns of crime may be missed. Then when someone is caught and goes to court, the full extent of their crimes could be unknown with the result that they receive a lesser sentence. So we discussed how reporting could be made easier.

One of our district councils, for example, has new software that enables shopkeepers to upload  CCTV onto the council’s systems without an officer having to call – something that both saves police time and speeds the process of getting critical information to the authorities.

We also discussed the need for shopkeepers who are the victims of crime to complete victim and business impact statements. And where the shop plays a vital role in a local community, making a community impact statement as well – all of which could play a significant part in sentencing.

We have agreed to meet again, this time with shopkeepers themselves, and I have said that I will ensure that retail crime is referenced in the new Police and Crime Plan.

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)

From time to time we find ourselves as a society compelled to sit up and take note of something we have done little or nothing about, even though we knew in our bones that it was wrong.

It’s not always possible to say why this happens when it does. Although Americans have always known about the brutality of some white police towards black citizens, it was only when George Floyd was killed by an officer that the country woke up – and the ripples from that are being felt around the world as we have all looked again at the ugly facts of racism.

We have always known about racism. Only now do we seem collectively determined to root it out of all our various institutions and organisations. Similarly with violence towards women and girls. It has taken the killings of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa to make us more resolute in doing something to make a permanent difference and not let the moment pass.

Last week the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) held the first of a series of round tables to try to find a way of ensuring that what all the various organisations in South Yorkshire are doing or planning to do about this will lead to us working in step. This particular round table brought together those whose professional lives are spent trying to deal with the issue of violence against women, whether as police officers and prosecutors, or those who care for victims. But there are many voices who want to be heard and who have contributions to make. So in coming weeks we hope to draw others into the conversation – women’s groups, victims’ groups, individuals with something to say, communities, and so on.

The ultimate aim may not be to produce a single strategy for South Yorkshire, but it will be to ensure that our individual strategies mutually reinforce one another, add up to something coherent and that there are no areas that we are missing where we could and should make a difference. We can also ensure that if there is funding available, we can work together to bring it to the county.

If, therefore, you or your organisation would like to be included in any of these conversations we would very much like to hear from you at the VRU.

Fond farewell

We have just said goodbye to Sam Mawson who was the Communications Officer for the VRU and before that did a similar job in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Sam was a great professional and we shall miss her skills and friendship. She is off to do something similar at the Cabinet Office and we wish her very well.

Remember them

Last week on Remembrance Day at 11am, officers from my neighbourhood police team went to each of the war memorials in our area and remembered the fallen in two world wars and other conflicts. It was very well received locally.

These annual commemorations are important moments not just to recall those who died but to remind us of our shared values. We come together, set aside differences and recall those who, as the Kohima epitaph says, for our tomorrow gave their today.

I went to a school a couple of years ago in November wearing a poppy. One of the pupils said he thought it was wrong to wear one and ‘glorify war’. I said I thought he was mistaken. This is not what we are doing. (It’s a bold and risky thing for an adult to contradict a child in the age of Greta Thunberg!)

When we as a nation came to remember the first and then the second world wars, we could have called to mind victories, but chose not to. Our commemorations do not recall battles won and enemies defeated. They don’t happen at an Arc de Triomphe, but at a Cenotaph, where we remember the dead and the cost of war.

Stay safe and well