Norfolk police chief's domestic violence pledge

Ben KendallNorfolk's police chief has promised to improve the way officers handle domestic violence and hate crime cases in the hope it could prevent crime in the long-term.Ben Kendall

Norfolk's police chief has promised to improve the way officers handle domestic violence and hate crime cases in the hope it could prevent crime in the long-term.

Chief constable Phil Gormley, who took up the top job in March, said it was vital that victims of such crimes feel able to report offences to the police.

He believes this could prevent 'cycles of abuse' and help young people who often turn to crime after growing up in abusive households.

Mr Gormley added that there were deprived urban pockets, such as estates in Norwich and Great Yarmouth, where the quality of life could be improved by reducing the number of people whose upbringing leads them into crime.

He was outlining his vision for policing in the county, saying officers should abandon an obsession with crime figures. He added: 'We must improve performance, not chase targets.'

Mr Gormley said: 'There are certain types of crime - such as burglary and violent crime - in which I will absolutely not tolerate increases. Burglary, for example, tends to be well-reported so an increase would indicate a genuine problem.

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'But there are other crimes, particularly domestic violence and hate crime, which have far-reaching consequences and are traditionally under-reported.

'If we record more of these kinds of offences it does not necessarily mean more crimes are actually occurring but that people feel able to contact us when they need help and we are getting a better picture of what is really happening.'

He added that the force would focus on improving quality of life, for example targeting anti-social behaviour and those who repeatedly commit petty offences. One way of doing this was steering youngsters away from crime at an early age.

'With issues like domestic violence, victims often suffer 20 attacks before contacting the police,' Mr Gormley said. 'We need to make sure that when they do contact us they get the help they need straight away.

'Domestic violence causes far-reaching harm - it doesn't just affect the victim but also their children which can in turn create a cycle of abuse and lead to criminal behaviour in adulthood. By addressing this we can bring long-term benefits to the community as a whole.'

Norfolk police is set to phase out its 'safest county in England' tag in recognition of the belief that, while the county's crime levels remain among the lowest, the public has little interest in statistics. Instead officers will be told it is acceptable for crime figures to grow in some categories, as long as the public's confidence in officers also improves.

Mr Gormley said forces nationwide had become too focussed on performance targets - sometimes at the expense of the relationship between police and the communities they serve. The new focus will encourage bobbies to 'do the right thing' rather than simply tick boxes.

He said: 'The danger is you can hit the target but miss the point. What I want is proactive, confident policing by officers who are not constantly worried about whether or not a crime should be recorded.'