One year on, and Police Minister Damian Green is confident that police commissioners are making “big improvements” to the region’s safety.
As reported in yesterday’s Journal, the positions have now been operational for 12 months and Mr Green said it meant communities can hold their forces to account for the first time.
It creates greater transparency, he said, and has gone a long way to helping bring about the country’s 3% fall in crime.
“I think they’ve made a big difference,” he said. “For the first time people have an individual they can hold responsible, which is important.
“It’s made people think about how their police forces are operating on a day-to-day basis, particularly in the North East and Newcastle.
“Vera Baird has concentrated on helping vulnerable people, including women and young people.
“Crime commissioners have opened a window on to police forces and I think it has lead to better policing.”
Police commissioners are able to hire and fire chief constables, set the force budget and outline its priorities.
The post is overseen by a crime panel able to summon the commissioner and chief constable to give account of how they are performing.
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham, Ron Hogg, says his original brief was to hold the police chief constable. But in reality, he has done so much more.
The former police officer said: “Just the other day I was sitting in someone’s living room listening to the problems they are having with their neighbours.
“One of my priorities is improving community engagement.”
Northumbria PCC Vera Baird said that securing training for door staff on dealing with vulnerable people, a scheme that will be rolled out across the country, and a regional strategy to tackle violence against women set to be unveiled next month, were among the achievements she was most proud of.
She said: “We try to consult as much as we can and I attend tenants associations, Women’s Institute meetings and youth organisations and much more.”
As forces across the country are forced to make massive cuts over the next two years, Mr Green believes finding out what matters to communities is vitally important. He said: “Crime has continued to fall by 3% across the country over the last three months even in these difficult economic times.
“And we will continue to hear about crime falling as long as forces are efficient.
“The Government has had to squeeze public spending and services like the police have reacted extremely well.
“The real picture shows that crime has fallen under this government and for the first time, people have a proper say in local policing. Across the country, police and crime commissioners are driving reform and holding their forces to account.”