Migrants Are Only Part Of The Policing Problem Says Chief

MIGRANTS are only part of the policing problem – that s the latest message from the chief constable of Cambridgeshire police, Julie Spence. Mrs Spence put her head above the political parapet last September to ask the Home Secretary for more cash for loca

MIGRANTS are only part of the policing problem - that's the latest message from the chief constable of Cambridgeshire police, Julie Spence.

Mrs Spence put her head above the political parapet last September to ask the Home Secretary for more cash for local policing citing the rising cost of dealing with immigrants as reason enough to be made a special case.

It was billed as a bid to offset the cost of policing a rapidly expanding population of immigrants and migrant workers in our county.

In the process, Mrs Spence touched on a political hot potato.

National media outlets were clamouring to interview her since she uttered the magic 'I' word.

And so began a lengthy campaign for funding, with tales of an £800,000 annual bill for police translators. It's a road that led the chief constable to the Home Office on Friday, to bid for those funds in person, alongside 42 other chief police officers.

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Has Mrs Spence's media-friendly strategy paid off? At the Home Office meeting, she got what she asked for - of sorts.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith promised officers there will be a new 'transitional fund' to mitigate costs of migration, and has asked the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to be involved in talks as to how that money is distributed. The fund will be set up in 2009.

Although each force may have to bid for the cash, Mrs Spence's straight-talking is likely to net Cambridgeshire police a fresh source of funding, and a potential way to mitigate the translation costs that hit the headlines last September.

The Chief Constable felt she had to go down the media route to get extra funding, after behind-the-scenes discussions with government officials failed. "I was told it was a medium to long term issue," she said. "As one of the lowest funded police forces in the country, we were being severely stretched. We needed a funding formula that could respond to rapid change."

Since a report published by ACPO on Thursday found no evidence that migrants are more involved in crime than Brits, Mrs Spence now claims that the strain on resources is caused by population growth in the county, not immigration or migration alone.

"When I originally began this campaign, people grabbed hold of the immigration angle, and some confused it with migration," she said.

"In fact, it was about growth. The number one issue was house-building, number two was migration and number three was immigration."

"It was never about driving a divisive wedge between communities, just the reality of policing a county which is growing rapidly. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the UK and that brings people here for jobs, British workers as well as migrants.

"If you look at the figures, Cambridgeshire has absorbed 50 per cent of the total migrant population of East Anglia. It's also the fastest growing county, so we need extra resources to put visible a police presence on the street," she told the Ely Standard.

However, Mrs Spence still acknowledges the part migration has to play.

"Migrants who don't speak English do put a real strain on resources, particularly when it takes two or three times as long to deal with them," she said.

"A small segment of the migrant population is criminal, and some are inadvertently involved in wrongdoing because they didn't understand the legislation. It would be better if they all spoke English, but that is the reality of the situation and we have to deal with it."

The force now has PCSOs who speak 20 different languages, which goes some way to integrating communities and helping offset translation costs.

Describing the current relationship between the police force and the Home Office as "constructive," Mrs Spence's media-friendly approach is obviously one that gets results. Home Office minister, Tony McNulty, is to visit Cambridgeshire in June.

Having successfully got the Home Office to sit up and listen, Mrs Spence issued a rallying cry to non-uniformed public servants.

"The onus is now on my colleagues in education and health to come forward. The government has listened to our argument and acknowledged on Friday that the official figures aren't necessarily accurate. It's about being honest, open and truthful.