This week I will visit a small community near Rotterdam that has pioneered a way to fight crime.  Under the "neighbourhood takes charge" project in Bolnes, the police allocate 20 hours of the force's time each week for local people to "spend" as they see fit.

The scheme has resulted in huge reductions in crime as the community has taken responsibility for its own safety.  Instead of senior officers deciding how, or if, they should respond to community concerns, power is transferred to the people.  Suddenly a public service is truly owned by the public.

I will be going with Kent Police, who told me about the scheme and are interested in pursuing the idea.  Depending on what we find, this might be something that would also interest Sussex Police, who have a strong commitment to neighbourhood policing.

The idea of a "right to policing" is completely in tune with the Government's agenda to open public services, return power to communities and devolve budgetary control.  

In policing, we've introduced street level crime maps on www.police.uk, a new national 101 non-emergency number to enable people to get hold of the Sussex force easily, and now people will have a direct say at the ballot box, too.

On 15 November, the people of Sussex will elect their first police and crime commissioner.  The chief constable will answer to the new commissioner who, in turn, will answer to the electorate.

The commissioner will set the policing plan and the budget, but the operational independence of the police - to make arrests and pursue investigations without political interference - will be protected.

Holding a multi-million-pound force to account is a big task for a big figure.  It is good news that some well qualified local candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring.

But I would still encourage others to come forward, especially people with leadership or senior management experience, who may not be from the traditional ranks of politicians.

These reforms will drive a renewed fight against crime.  They represent a fundamental transfer of power from the state to the citizen.  And my prediction is that, once local people have this power, they will not give it up.

Christopher N Howarth