Anti-social behaviour back on Essex Police agenda as force HQ could merge with fire brigade

Essex Police HQ in Springfield, Chelmsford

Essex Police HQ in Springfield, Chelmsford

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Police in Essex could return to tackling anti-social behaviour – while its headquarters could merge with the county’s fire brigade.

Roger Hirst, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner.Roger Hirst, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner.

Roger Hirst, elected in May as the new Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, has set out his priorities for his four-year term of office.

While his predecessor Nick Alston had moved away from anti-social behaviour as a police issue – with councils and other partners tackling the problem in 97% of cases – Mr Hirst has said he backs “the broken window” theory, which suggests anti-social behaviour is a forerunner for more serious crime.

He also wants more visible patrolling, particularly in crime hot spots, bolstered by a doubling in size of the Special Constabulary and allowing officers to do more admin while out and about, such as in coffee shops, by using better technology.

This is another move away from Mr Alston’s approach that “bobbies on the beat” were no longer effective.

Nick Alston, former Essex Police & Crime Commissioner.Nick Alston, former Essex Police & Crime Commissioner.

These changes could be boosted with funding from changes to Essex Police headquarters.

The existing site in Springfield is set to be sold with the buildings there no longer fit for purpose.

Plans had been set out to build a new force HQ, likely to be in north Chelmsford.

However, Mr Hirst has now set out proposals to merge the police headquarters with those of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service at the brigade’s Kelvedon Park site – including potentially merging the two organisations’ 999 control rooms.

If the merger goes ahead not all of the existing police HQ could be accommodated on site, meaning some functions would be relocated to other areas in a “hub and spoke” model.

But the move, along with shared HR, legal, finance and procurement departments between the two blue light services, could slash the cost of constructing a new purpose-built police headquarters.

Any such move would be dependent on government legislation to allow the merger of police and fire services under the commissioner’s role.

Mr Hirst said: “Over the next few weeks I will be putting together a new Police and Crime Plan for our county, setting out key priorities for Essex Police and laying out a framework for our partner agencies who work hard to keep our communities safe. I aim to publish the revised plan this autumn.

“I believe it is essential anti-social behaviour is addressed before it develops into more serious criminal activity. I will be expecting the Community Policing Teams and the Community Safety Hubs set up with councils and other partners to be at the forefront of tackling nuisance behaviour.

“I want Essex Police to be more local, visible and accessible. That will mean using new technology more effectively to enable officers to spend more time on patrol.”

Other key priorities include tackling gangs and serious crime, addressing domestic abuse, and driving down road deaths.

An ECFRS spokesman said there were no plans for the HQs to merge, though nothing had been ruled out, and there are “real opportunities to collaborate”.

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