Making sure people do though is one of my priorities, and to achieve it I know we need to think innovatively and collaboratively. One of the ways we are doing that is through a new concept – public safety officers.
My predecessor as commissioner approved a pilot in April 2020 for two individuals to take to the streets of Craven with a simple but important aim – to improve community safety and prevent harm by being multi-agency officers, bringing together fire, policing, health and prevention capabilities into one role.
They are on the frontline – boosting blue-light capacity in some of our most remote locations.
But they don’t just appear when something bad happens – they are integral to the community and working there day-in, day-out.
This is crucial at a time when the nature of crime, fires and safety is changing. It is getting harder and harder to recruit on-call firefighters – they are firefighters who have other jobs but sign up to be available when they are needed in our rural communities.
This is not a huge surprise – anyone taking on the role needs to be within five minutes of a fire station and, when you build in the need to find a job, housing and schools to that mix, the demands are onerous.
By creating these public safety officers, and combining different jobs into one position, you create a full-time role in the areas where it can be hardest to recruit and where the emergency services find it hardest to serve.
From a policing point of view, having someone who can respond quickly to an incident like a road traffic collision can even mean that lives will be saved.
The two officers, based in Bentham and Grassington, started their work in one of the most challenging periods imaginable, but despite everything – and in some cases because of it – their value has been clear. I am now expanding the pilot with recruitment under way for two more roles.
Since my election, I have tried to spend as much time as possible meeting with residents across North Yorkshire and one of the most inspiring was to Bentham with those two public safety officers, Craig and Robbie.
Talking to some of the area’s older residents at their lunch club, and then meeting shopkeepers and shoppers on the streets in the town centre, it was clear people value having individuals who know them, are known to them and care about the community they are part of – there is no substitute for being immersed in a local area.
We also have to be honest that we are having to do more with less, and that requires innovative thinking. It is no secret that resources are always under pressure so by working together, across our emergency services, we can improve how we help without increasing costs. We are already sharing more buildings across the county so it makes absolute sense to me that we should share people too.
It is also worth reflecting that the nature of the traditional roles of police officer and firefighter are changing.
Whether it is new technology, changed criminal behaviour or more focus on prevention, we need to evolve how we respond.
It never fails to be a surprise to many that only a quarter of the incidents North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service respond to actually involve fire – and even that number is falling, with the number of fire incidents here down by a third in the past decade.
Half of call-outs are to false fire alarms and the remaining quarter dealing with incidents such as flooding, road collisions and animal rescue.
A new Fire and Rescue White Paper is due from the Government this autumn and I fully expect this tri-service approach to be one of the initiatives encouraged across the country.
It is something I would completely back because public safety officers are one solution by being on the ground, understanding the challenges being faced by residents and knowing who to call on to find the right solutions.
Our emergency services work to keep us safe and feeling safe, so it makes sense that we should bring them together where possible to help protect people and property, provide reassurance and be a presence that is not just seen when things go wrong but can help stop them going wrong in the first place.
Philip Allott is the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.
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