A police boss is calling for a radical new approach to dealing with people who place the greatest demands on the North Wales force and other public agencies.
North Wales police and crime commissioner Arfon Jones wants to set up an early intervention hub to reduce the rocketing demand.
Mr Jones is concerned the police are increasingly “having to pick up the pieces” because of cuts in other services.
In many cases, he says, the police are doing the work of other agencies for them.
Most of the extra non-core police work was generated by often vulnerable people with complex problems involving mental health, homelessness and problematic drug use.
A multi-agency early intervention hub would be able to provide more support for those people so the underlying causes can be addressed to reduce harm and reduce demand at the same time.
It was, said Mr Jones, vital at a time of austerity to work more effectively because the police could not and should not be expected to plug the gaps caused by spending cuts imposed by local councils and other public bodies.
The commissioner has now written to all six county councils in North Wales asking them to let him know about any planned cuts that would have an impact on crime and disorder issues.
One example was the proposal by Wrexham Council to axe funding for nine Police Community Support Officers in the town.
The council had chosen to fund those jobs themselves for a number of years and that was always over and above what North Wales Police was providing.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “Wrexham Council announced that one of their saving proposals was to cut PCSOs because they fund over and above what North Wales Police provide.
“Historically they have paid extra for nine PSCOs for the county borough and they are proposing to save £140,000 by getting rid of them.
“This is not the first time it has happened.
“We had a debate last year with Denbighshire councillors who wanted me to put more money into CCTV in Denbighshire having made massive cuts in their own contribution.
“If local authorities are going to make cuts in the community safety budgets in their authorities then they shouldn’t be expecting me to be filling the gap because the money comes from the same place at the end of the day.
“I am also working to a reduced budget so this would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“A recent national report flagged up the number of deaths in police custody, but many of those people should not have been detained in the first place because they had mental health issues.
“If there had been adequate provision for them in the community perhaps some of them would be alive today.
“A lot of time the police are having to pick up the pieces, and then when something goes wrong it’s our fault even though we’re actually working on behalf of another agency that haven’t got the resources in place.
“I’m determined that things like this need to stop and that local authorities in particular cannot rely on the police and crime commissioner budget to fill the gaps they are creating.
“Mental health is an example where we use an inordinate amount of resources to protect people suffering from a mental illness because of a lack of community psychiatric services
“The people who cause the greatest demand not just on the police, but on the fire service, on the ambulance service, on the hospital, local authority and social services are the repeat victims.
“They are vulnerable people with complex needs and if we can address those needs we can reduce the demands that they create.
“What I am proposing is a smarter way of working that will be to everybody’s benefit.
“One of my proposals is to set up an early intervention team which would be similar in principle to ‘social prescribing’, which is increasingly being recognised as a model that addresses underlying causes rather than just the symptoms like we have been doing..
“They have people looking at why repeat callers are going there all the time. By indentifying the underlying causes they immediately reduce demands on health professionals
“The idea is that I would put in 40 per cent of the budget and there would be an expectation that the other community safety partners between them will provide the other 60 per cent.
“If they don’t contribute it won’t happen, but if they do it will be a win-win for everybody.
“It’s investing to save money and to provide a quality service for those most at risk within our communities.”