Chief Superintendent Belinda Davies Answers Your Questions
TheSprout has teamed up with the Cardiff Partnership for a series of interviews with the leaders of Cardiff's main institutions, and we start with Chief Superintendent Belinda Davies of the South Wales Police.
We asked for your questions and we only went and ruddy asked them. So without further ado here's the person in charge of policing in Cardiff answering your questions on motorbikes, cannabis, extremism, digital policing, media coverage... and her favourite band.
How many crimes do you deal with in a day?
Cardiff has a population of over 350,000 with an extra 80,000 commuting here for work and more on weekends for shopping and nightlife. We only record about 50 crimes a day for all of these people.
Do you think Cardiff is a safe city compared to other places in the UK?
Yes - the city has a great reputation as somewhere to live, work and study and your chances of being a victim of serious crime here are among the lowest in Europe - we are indeed in a very enviable position.
We have very strong partnership working here in Cardiff ensuring we all keep Cardiff safe.
How is the Police engaging with the communities in Cardiff?
Engagement is key to ensuring we are the best at understanding and responding to the needs of our communities.
We have 11 dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Teams across the city who are visible every day and hold regular meetings with the community which we publicise on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and ourbobby.com, as well as officers and staff that work with schools, young people and diverse groups.
We also support community projects and run sporting activities, open days, door-to-door surveys and public events.
How has policing changed over the last 10 years?
It's fair to say change is constant and at a far greater pace than ever. There have been a number of changes but two stand out for me;
Adapting to austerity and doing more with less - it's a huge challenge but with any challenge comes opportunity. It has given us opportunity to review our business to make us more efficient and effective when responding to the needs of our communities; huge investment in our technology.
This leads me on to the second biggest change; adapting to the impact of ever increasing online activity. We are moving quickly into the age of digital policing. Social media, such as Facebook, Periscope and Twitter to name a few, provide opportunity for greater interactive engagement; it's a virtual bobby if you like. Dixon Of Dock Green meets Minority Report!
We are focused on keeping Cardiff safe and will continue to adapt and respond the needs of our communities.
What would you say are the three most important priorities for the Police in Cardiff?
We focus on offences that cause the most harm and have the greatest impact on people's lives - this includes burglary/robbery, anti-social behaviour (quality of life matters) and violence especially where it affects people who are vulnerable (women and young girls) or repeat victims - sometimes these are people who are in abusive relationships (domestic violence) or at risk of being exploited (child sexual exploitation).
How do you feel about the misrepresentation of the police in today's media?
Police officers and staff know and understand that a great deal is expected of them and that they must uphold high standards - adhering to the code of ethics -it's important our communities have trust and faith in us. We are accountable to the communities we serve and again that is key!
A few bad apples however damage the reputation of all and this is unfair. The majority of Police Officers and staff are professional, proud and positive individuals who often go that extra mile and above and beyond the call of duty to protect the communities they diligently serve; I have faith in our communities to recognise this and apply balance to accounts given in the media.
I believe the British Police Service is the best in the world and I am extremely proud to wear my uniform; it saddens me when we are misrepresented but I totally accept and believe that we must be accountable to our communities.
Is Cardiff's night-time economy worse than other cities?
No - we have a very busy and vibrant night-time economy and on weekends and major events there can be 150,000 revellers in the city centre. We work very closely with our partners to prevent problems and serious injuries have been reduced significantly over recent years so that Cardiff is a safe place to socialise and has a great reputation as a destination internationally. In fact other forces in the UK have visited Cardiff to see how we operate, especially as we have the unique challenge of having 280+ licensed premises in one-square mile in the city centre, which is a higher concentration than anywhere else in Britain.
What is the impact of the budget on policing in Cardiff?
Our Chief Constable, Peter Vaughan, has committed to preserving front line numbers ensuring we keep Cardiff safe and are the best at understanding and responding to our communities needs.
We've reviewed our business and made changes to some of the ways we operate to make us more efficient - we have invested in technology to ensure we are at the forefront of modern day policing (Project Fusion) - mobile technology ensures our staff are more visible and better able and equipped to deal with investigations far more efficiently and in a timely fashion ensuring greater victim satisfaction.
A key part of my job is to make sure we really deliver the service our communities need and I'm totally committed to that.
Is Cardiff really a 'hotbed' of radicalisation of young people?
There has been a lot of media attention, but Cardiff is a very cosmopolitan capital and has strong links with other parts of the world throughout its heritage. That diversity is part of the history and identity of the city and we've seen a strong response from our communities coming together to reject extremism.
Communities defeat terrorism and I am proud of the way our local communities here in Cardiff have and are responding to this issue. We will not tolerate it and I'm particularly impressed with the way our youth are responding to reject and tackle radicalisation amongst their peers.
Our communities in Cardiff are strong.
What is the impact of Cardiff being a destination for major events on policing?
We have a lot of venues for events that attract international interest, and it's great to work somewhere that has a growing presence on the world stage. From a policing point of view we have a good reputation for dealing with events very successfully and many of our staff have developed a lot of skill in this area.
Our challenge is to balance all the different demands but Cardiff has shown it's somewhere that can host Olympic and NATO events, Rugby World Cup and international football and we're now looking towards a Champions League final.
What are your thoughts on the decriminalisation of cannabis in other countries throughout the world?
The UK government sets drugs classifications and any changes are for Parliament to make - cannabis has been defined as a Class B drug and we follow the national guidance.
There are lots of issues reported by our communities linked to drugs misuse from anti-social behaviour through to crime and the effect on people's health and life chances, so we do see a local negative impact.
What are the Cardiff Met doing to ensure Cardiff is a safe city to cycle in?
We work closely with all our partners on planning and road safety and our neighbourhood teams regularly take part in awareness raising activities to promote safe and responsible cycling.
A 20mph speed limit zone in Cathays was launched last year, and this summer we saw the level of interest in cycling during the Velothon weekend - it is important for the city to be recognised as a safe place to cycle to encourage such events.
Why isn't there somewhere we can ride our motorbikes in the Ely & Caerau area?
Cardiff's quite compact and our communities tell us and our partner agencies that they are concerned about noise, safety and disruption from off-road motorcycles on land near to their homes, which means that facilities for riding off-road need to be away from built-up areas, which is more difficult than in a larger city, so the nearest motocross track is Tremorfa Industrial Estate. [Editor's note: it might be worth contacting your local councillors to see if something can be done]
Can something be done to monitor the use of zebra crossings? Many drivers refuse to stop for pedestrians, and if their misuse could be sanctioned like in, say, jumping traffic lights, they could perhaps be safer.
We're working with the local authority and the GoSafe partnership to address road safety, as well as across neighbourhood teams, involving volunteers to help tackle local issues of speed and improve the awareness of motorists. We're particularly interested in these kinds of issues where there is community concern.
Why do you have to wear all the equipment?
The high-visibility part of the uniform is to make sure police officers are identifiable to the public and easy to see at an incident. Other kit is carried for communication and safety, such as handcuffs and CS spray because officers have to deal with a range of difficult and sometimes dangerous situations. You never know what you're going to walk into on duty and there's the expectation that you'll do something immediately.
What made you want to be in the Police?
I wanted to join the police force since junior school. My family were bemused, as I had no relative or connection to the organisation and it was unusual at the time for a woman to join the Police
I am passionate about my local communities here in South Wales and wanted to make a difference.
The variety is far reaching and the experience I have gained is second to none.
I would recommend Policing to anyone; it really is a rewarding occupation.
This is a 'job like no other' and I am proud to be part of the service
Is it easy being in charge?
I am very proud and privileged to be the Police Commander for Cardiff; the fastest growing capital city in Europe - who wouldn't be?
I am the first female police commander to hold this position and I am humbled by that fact.
The job comes with its challenges some greater than others; as commanding any Capital City would but it is a very rewarding job and I genuinely enjoy coming to work every day. It's a 24/7 role and the mobile is always on.
Have you been shot before?
Is it true you carry a gun on a daily basis?
No. These are carried by specially trained officers. Tasers are also carried by specially trained officers.
Is your favourite band The Police?
No, my favourite band is Iron Maiden
Do you ever refer to yourselves as the deadly heddlu?
I have never heard that being said but it made me chuckle; was that a made up question? [Editor's note: no, someone actually emailed that one in] In fact during the London Riots a few years ago, when forces across Britain were drafted in, many Londoners were very complimentary about the Heddlu and our style of policing, some even sent letters.
TheSprout would like to thank Chief Superintendent Belinda Davies for her time and the Cardiff Partnership and Cardiff Debate for helping us organise this interview. Keep your eyes peeled for the next interview, where once again we'll be after your questions for the people in charge of making Cardiff an even better place to live.
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