In terms of elections, this week’s chance to vote for Police and Crime Commissioners in your local police force area may not be up there with deciding the next leader of the free world, but in their own way the elections are significant.
This will be the first time that voters will have had the opportunity to elect Commissioners, who will be accountable for how crime is tackled in their area. Apart from London, where the Mayor has taken on the powers of a Commissioner, every police force in England and Wales will gain a new elected leader.
Crime is a major cause of concern to older people and fear of crime can increase isolation. But there is also evidence that older victims often experience ill health and reduced wellbeing, particularly if they are subjected to crimes such as distraction burglaries, which often target older people.
At present, older people’s experiences and views do not adequately inform crime reduction, so if Police and Crime Commissioners are to ensure their community safety and crime reduction services tackle crime affecting older people, they need to take time to find out their views and act on them.
Concerns have been raised that too few people know and understand about the elections and their relevance to them and will not therefore vote. If this proves to be the case it would be disappointing, not least because both Labour and the Conservatives have put up candidates in all the force areas and there are many independents also running. Whatever your feelings about the change to elected Commissioners, it is undoubtedly an interesting experiment in democracy and should not be ignored.
Age UK has published a briefing on the elections, which is available on our website and it asks a few key questions of candidates, including:
- How will you ensure that the fears of older people about crime are addressed, particularly regarding crimes that specifically target them, such as distraction burglary?
- How do you intend to listen to and engage with older people, especially those whose voices are seldom heard; will this be a high priority?
- How will you effectively engage with the wider community and gain the co-operation and trust of the public, particularly where knowledge and understanding of your role may be limited?
- What will be your agenda to reduce crime suffered by older people in your area?
We hope that older people take the opportunity to engage with Commissioners both before and after the elections, and ensure they are held to account before facing election once more in 2016.