IN just one week’s time you will get your chance to vote for your next Police and Crime Commissioner.

Four candidates are battling it our for Thames Valley Police’s top spot after weeks of campaigning.

Conservative Matthew Barber, Labour’s Laetisia Carter, the Liberal Democrats’ John Howson and independent Alan Robinson will all be hoping for your vote on Thursday, May 6.

We spoke to all of them last week to hear their plans for the role and their take on some of the big crime issues in Berkshire and Thames Valley.

IN BRIEF: Who are the Thames Valley Police Crime and Commissioner candidates?

The following texts are excerpts from interviews with each candidate.

Matthew Barber, Conservative

Matthew Barber. Image via Ed Nix.

Matthew Barber. Image via Ed Nix.

Mr Barber has been the deputy Thames Valley PCC since 2016 and was leader of Vale of White Horse District Council between 2011 to 2018, where he is currently a councillor.

He said: “I’ve got my top five priorities, and number one is strong local policing, making sure that we get more visible policing on the streets, but also working really hard to make sure that Neighbourhood Policing is bolstered.

“We're recruiting a significant number of new police officers at Thames Valley ahead of targets, but also making sure that we recruit and retain PCSOs who are really important to neighbourhood policing.

“We also need to focus on serious organised crime. You know we've, we've seen, sadly, a number of stabbings in Reading, and sadly it’s not unique to Reading and knife crime and county line drug gangs are a real concern.

“Obviously, the police have Serious Organised Crime units, which deal with some sort of high end covert surveillance, but we need to be much better at linking the whole system through from Neighbourhood Policing all the way up to Serious Organised Crime

“If you take the terrible attack we saw in Forbury Gardens here just last year, we had a fantastic response from counter-terrorismsm officers, armed officers were there in a matter of minutes, but of course it was the local neighbourhood team who were there. It was an off-duty officer who was in the park who had the first sighting of the suspect so that link between all levels of policing is really important.

READ MORE: What does the PCC do?

“Another [priority] which I know is relevant in every part of Thames Valley, certainly here in Reading is dealing with unauthorised encampments, which causes a real problem to some communities.

“There aren't many powers for the police. There's new legislation going through the moment which will change them. And I think I'll make a real difference to how Thames Valley Police can respond to an issue that matters to a lot of members of the public.

“I think the experience I've had as Deputy PCC has been invaluable and I think generally speaking Thames Valley Police do a really good job but I think there are certainly examples that I've come across where I think we can do much better, especially dealing with some of these issues of neighbourhood crime, and making sure the resources of the force are properly aligned to the priorities of the public.

“The PCC has a role in doing that, not just setting the priorities but also controlling the budget, and that's that's hugely important to make sure that the efforts of police officers on the ground are going in the right direction.

“I've got a clear plan for Thames Valley, built on my experience and talking to the members of the public over a number of years to understand their concerns about policing. And I know, not just what I want to achieve, but also how to achieve it.”

Laetisia Carter, Labour

Laetisia Carter. Image via candidate.

Laetisia Carter. Image via candidate.

Ms Carter, who is deputy leader of the Labour group on West Oxfordshire District Council, has worked for Thames Valley Police and the NHS.

She said: “My first priority is tackling violence against women and girls. It’s a massive priority for me. Throughout my different jobs for over 16 years, I've helped many women leave violent situations. It's been a big part of my casework as a councillor over the last seven years.

“So that's something I really want to do more about by putting the money where it needs to be raising the profile of the issue, having an annual conference that looks across the Thames Valley, how we're improving each year.

“Encouraging victims of domestic abuse to be involved in that process, men and women, and holding ourselves accountable, really, because I understand that there's some amazing work going on at Thames Valley Police to promote an end to this awful crime and I want to extend that.

“I really get it and I think it's really important that we have a PCC that gets the issue. It's one of the main crimes that the police deal with. A lot of people don't realise that it's one of the main crimes that police are called out to, when there's a 999 call is domestic abuse so we have to get better at that.

“I think to have another Conservative PCC isn't going to make a huge difference, or potentially will take us in the wrong direction whereas, if we had a Labour PCC we could do something so exciting with Thames Valley.

“I want to continue the drug testing at Reading Festival and I want to extend that work. I want to work on domestic abuse, in a way that shows Thames Valley as a beacon.

“There's so many examples around the country of people being incredibly innovative in this role and creative in this role, and getting really exciting things to happen that takes us in a better direction than what we're in at the moment.

“I want to protect young people much more. There are so many issues that affect particularly really vulnerable young people. So I want to really get under the skin of those issues and come up with some innovative projects to make that work better than it is at the moment.

“We're bucking the trend at the moment in terms of it in a bad way when it comes to violent crime and knife crime. So they have to be prioritised.

“If people come out and vote for Labour on the sixth of May, you could end up with a Police and Crime Commissioner that does things very differently and it might be much more in line with your values and how you want policing run. And that's my aspiration so I'm hopeful that people will come out and demand something better from our politicians.”

John Howson, Liberal Democrats

John Howson. Image via Ed Nix

John Howson. Image via Ed Nix

Mr Howson, who has worked as a civil servant and a teacher, sits as a councillor on Oxfordshire County Council. While working as a teacher he was stabbed and has been burgled at least three times.

He said: “There is still a lot of crime that is related to communities in communities, by communities that can be solved in the community, and that requires a police service to have good intelligence. Most people equate that to ‘bobbies on the beat’.

“I think it's more about embedding intelligence into the communities and building the trust in communities so that they will feed information. And that's what good old fashioned policing was all about. We have to find a way of doing that in the 21st century.

“We have to build trust with young people in the education service because the education service has a very important part to play in preventing young people starting off on a life of crime.

“The ‘bobbies on the beat’ issue is an interesting one because it comes back to this issue of what is really reflecting is trust in the police and trust that they will keep you safe.

“But as you know, if we're talking about telephone scams, cyber crime, bobbies on the beat won't solve any of those. Community police officers and others in the communities meeting the community, talking, will build trust. And it's that feeling that you can trust the police to do something. Successive governments which have not given enough resources have eroded that trust.

“So I say yeah we’ve got to build trust. That’s why I say we need ‘a police service not a police force.’

“Knife crime is something that I feel very strongly about with me being a victim.

“It lives with you forever. For the first four or five years, I couldn't watch a production of Macbeth, and I still find it difficult to watch television programmes or films with lots of violent stabbing, because I know what the effects are.

“The slogan I've got is ‘Don't carry, can't use’ because if you don't carry a knife you can't use it. But that's about making sure that these people feel secure and in society, that they recognise that you don't reach for a knife to take out.

“And it's about their values in their place, places, and the more alienated, you are the more likely you are to respond in an anti social way.

“I'm the most experienced candidate. I clearly understand the concerns, I don’t have simple measures like more ‘bobbies on the beat’, but measures which understand how we can use our resources.”

Alan Robinson, independent

Alan Robinson. Image via Ed Nix.

Alan Robinson. Image via Ed Nix.

Mr Robinson was a front-line Thames Valley Police officer for 25 years.

He said: “My priority is to get the bobbies back on the beat. If you've got the bobby back on the beat, almost everything else falls into place, things like anti social behaviour knife crime, apart from cybercrime, which I fully accept is going to be the boom industry over the next five to ten years.

“But my plan is to get the bobby back on the beat, to let them use their common sense and discretion which will free up more time for them to be on the beat, more community engagement, say we're engaged with the public and listening and acting upon what they say.

“Because if we get the officer in the right place at the right time, that will raise morale and without political interference the officers will be able to be creative in how they solve problems.

“[The role of the PCC is] politicising something that was never political. It wasn't political in the 70s, 80s and the beginning of the 90s and that's my mantra: to get the politics out of policing, and let's just get back to common sense.

“The police officers that I knew, used to really love their job and they just really just go through the motions now, whatever the policies are. And it's demoralising, bearing in mind that those officers were recruited because of their initiative and their personality.

“They're like people on tracks, they're on rails, they can't deviate, they can't use their creativity and that hurts me.

“If you've got a demoralised police officer, they can't go out and serve the public. And the two go hand in hand. You know that if you've got a demoralised police service or police officers, they can't go out and serve the public.

“I don't think the other candidates get it. I don't think they understand how broken the service is.

“You think you've got a police service but you’ve got a police service in name only.

“You've got very, very few officers that can actually go out and deliver what you consider the police service to be.

“Vote for me on May 6th because I want to take politics out of policing and get the bobby back on the beat.”