A police boss is urging people in North Wales to take part in a survey to assess how much voters are prepared to pay for policing.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has launched the online poll against a backdrop of the Covid pandemic, which has created extra demand on the service.
At the same time the force is having to cope with a rising tide of new and emerging crimes, including ruthless county lines gangs who coerce children and young people into becoming drug runners peddling heroin and cocaine.
Around half the money for the police budget in North Wales comes from the UK Government and the rest comes from Council Tax. The amount depends on the precept levied by Police and Crime Commissioners.
Mr Jones will make the proposal to the Police and Crime Panel to set the level of precept at a meeting on Tuesday, February 2.
Last year the panel gave the green light for a 4.5 per cent rise, which equates to a 25p a week increase in the cost of policing.
This enabled the setting up the new five-strong Economic Crime Unit, as well as funding the appointment of a new member of the team at the Victim Help Centre in St Asaph to specialise in supporting fraud victims.
Mr Jones is hoping to raise enough money with the precept to help North Wales Police deal with the increase in demand for services caused by the pandemic.
He said: “The pandemic has definitely driven costs up for the police force. It’s put pressure on the budget, there’s no two ways about it.
“The important thing for me is that if we tax people more, we offer them something for that. The questions in the survey are geared around explaining to people what they would get for their money.
“The message I want to give people is that if they pay more that they’ll get more. It won’t be like many other public services where they pay more and then get less.
“We’re looking at getting the force to be more proactive and going out and preventing crime.
“For example, last year we created the Intercept team, a new high tech policing unit has been set up to clamp down on organised crime and drug gangs in North Wales
“We won’t know what the settlement from the Home Office will be until December 17. But what it’s likely to be is flat cash. So, what that means is that it isn’t a cut, but it is a cut when you take inflation into account. What we’re expecting is a real terms cut.
“We don’t know what we’re going to get yet but we know that the Home Office is very good at masking the figures.
“I want the people of North Wales to share their views on police priorities with me so I can then put those views into action to keep our communities safe.
“The awareness and frequency of criminal exploitation has increased in recent years, for example the criminal exploitation of the vulnerable including children in county lines, modern slavery and sexual violence. It is essential that these individuals are protected and I will continue to prioritise their safety.
“The cost pressures means the police will have to change the way they work and we need to relook how our priorities and how they can be delivered.
“The Police and Crime Plan sets the strategic direction for North Wales Police, Community Safety Partnerships and other organisations dedicated to reducing crime and safeguarding our communities.
“As police and crime commissioner for North Wales, I have duty to consult local people on policing priorities.