North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has announced he that is standing down.
Mr Jones, the region’s second ever police and crime commissioner, will be retiring at the next election whenever it is held.
The former police inspector was voted into office on a Plaid Cymru ticket in 2016 – with a 25,000 majority.
According to Mr Jones, it was one of the “proudest moments” of his life when he was elected to lead the police force he had served for 30 years, both in uniform and as a detective.
The next election had originally been due to take place last May but the vote was put back a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Jones said: “The main reason I have decided not to seek re-election is that I will been working for more than 46 years by the time of the next election.
“As a result of the pandemic the term of office was extended for a year. I started thinking about this last May but I didn’t talk to anybody else about it until three months ago.
“I have achieved a lot in the past five years and it is going to be more difficult to make a difference next time because of the pandemic, Brexit and the fact that the term of office has been curtailed to three years.”
On his first official day in office, Mr Jones pledged to make tackling domestic violence a top priority.
A month later, he announced at the North Wales Police and Crime Panel that he was providing the money to ensure that North Wales Police was the first force in Wales to issue body worn video cameras to all front line officers. He said these were particularly useful in the aftermath of an incident of domestic abuse.
He said one of the things that had changed most in between the time he retired as a police officer and taking office as police and crime commissioner was the fact that a lot of crime had moved online. He invested money and resources to tackle new and emerging threats like the sexual exploitation of vulnerable people, including children, and fraud.
As well as setting up a new Economic Crime Unit to crack down on fraudsters, the police and crime commissioner provided funding to pay for a dedicated officer to support fraud victims. Mr Jones also funded the appointment of the UK’s first police support officer to help victims of modern slavery.
Both officers are based at the Victim Help Centre in St Asaph which receives funding from Mr Jones and provides support and advice for victims of crime from across North Wales.
As a long-time campaigner for drugs legislation reform, Mr Jones also says he is proud that he has helped to shift public opinion on the issue as well as launching a raft of pioneering initiatives.
Among them is the Checkpoint Cymru scheme – the first of its kind in Wales – to steer low-level offenders, including people caught with drugs for personal use, away from crime.
Earlier this year Mr Jones helped with the setting up of a pilot project in Flintshire when officers there became the first in Wales to carry a life-saving nasal spray called Naloxone which acts as an antidote to a drugs overdose. Once the results of the trial are evaluated, the commissioner hopes the initiative can be rolled out across North Wales.
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS paid tribute to the outgoing Police and Crime Commissioner.
He said: “We are indebted to Arfon Jones for his tremendous contribution as the Police and Crime Commissioner for north Wales.
“From launching Checkpoint Cymru – a project to address the underlying causes of offending; commissioning over £2 million worth of services to support victims of crime; leading the charge in tackling domestic violence and to more recently keeping our communities safe during the Coronavirus pandemic, Arfon’s considerable achievements in office are a testament to his commitment to the constituents he serves.
“On behalf of Plaid Cymru I would like to thank Arfon Jones for his contribution to Welsh public life and send him our warmest wishes for the future.”
The biggest single decision taken by Mr Jones during his term of office was the appointment of a new Chief Constable, Carl Foulkes, and he is delighted with the “excellent leadership” since he got the top job.
Mr Jones said: “In fact, I’m just blown away by the professionalism of young officers that I’ve met over the last five years.
“Nothing stands still with policing. Our officers are having to deal with new and worrying trends like online crime and child sex abuse. But these are not issues that that the police can tackle alone – for example, the Internet Service Providers can do a lot to prevent online grooming and the abuse of children.
“In an ever changing world, the criminals are adapting and the police have to adapt equally quickly which is why we have increased the staff in the Victim Help Centre.
“One of themes during my term in office has been the partnership with the Third Sector who deliver support for survivors and vulnerable people.
“I’m a big fan of the Third Sector. They deliver a service in the fraction of the time a public sector agency can. They are making a real difference to real people, especially in terms of providing support for survivors of domestic abuse.
“I think one my proudest achievements was providing extra money to buy body worn videos.
“It’s proven to be a good decision because it has provided evidence that has helped in securing convictions on domestic violence and domestic abuse cases.”
‘Modern Slavery Unit’
He added: “The formation of the Modern Slavery Unit is another achievement of which I am proud and I made history when I appointed the first support officer to help modern slavery victims.
“Culturally, North Wales Police has changed over the past five years. The way the force operates now is around trauma and how it informs policing, with better services for vulnerable members of the community – whether they are offenders or victims.
“We’ve been addressing the causes of crime not just the symptoms and that’s the right thing to do. We are doing a great deal of preventative work by looking at Adverse Childhood Experiences which can have a massive impact on future behaviour.
“Invariably, the root cause is that something traumatic has happened in people’s lives, including being abused as children. Mental health issues go hand in hand with problematic drug use and people in that situation suffer from a whole raft of problems.
“One of the things I am most proud of is that the tide of public opinion around the drugs issue has changed and moved on.
“What I find most frustrating with the public sector is the fact that they’re reactive rather than preventative.
“We need to stop the revolving door of people going in and out of the Criminal Justice System. Rather that perpetuate the cycle of crime and punishment we need to break that vicious circle so there are fewer crimes and fewer victims.”