Essex PCC Roger Hirst answers questions over Uttlesford policing
PUBLISHED: 12:40 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:40 08 February 2017
Following a packed meeting at Saffron Walden Town Hall last week (Thursday, February 2) where Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst addressed Uttlesford residents, we put a series of questions to him. Here are his responses.
During the meeting Mr Hirst, who was elected in May, faced questions and outlined his seven policing priorities which include more local, visible and accessible policing, tackling gangs and organised crime, protecting children and vulnerable people and improving road safety.
Chief Inspector Craig Carrington, district commander for Uttlesford and Braintree, also at the meeting, said: “This is the most challenging period I have experienced. What I want to stress is that when you need us, we will come and help you.”
1. The main theme at the meeting was residents feel there is a distinct lack of police presence in Uttlesford. How many officers will be based at the new Lodge building at Uttlesford District Council in Saffron Walden, and what assurances can you give that this will make a difference in their communities?
Officers aren’t based at specific buildings but patrol their district. The Lodge will provide places for officers to work, but visibility in the area will be improved by the good use of mobile technology, which will allow the police to spend more time on patrol.
2. Another point raised was that despite an increase in the police precept, residents in low crime areas feel they are getting short-changed. What would you say to them?
I understand and recognise the need for more local, visible and accessible policing and have invested the money raised by increasing the council precept, by £4.95 per year for the average property, into 41 more front line officers, 15 additional staff in the force control room and helping to double the Special Constabulary. We are also continuing to invest in better technology to help free our officers up, so they can be more visible in their communities. The cost of policing in rural areas is more expensive than urban areas, and we have proportionately more officers deployed in rural areas.
3. You mentioned doubling the number of specials officers in the county in the next 18 months. Does this mean Uttlesford will see an increase in “boots on the ground” policing?
We hope to see volunteers come forward. There are 32 specials currently working across Braintree and Uttlesford. We aim to increase this number to 55 and have planned a local campaign coming up in March. The specials we have in January alone worked 149 duties for 745 hours.
4. The sale of Saffron Walden Police Station was mentioned by several residents, how and where will the money from the sale be reinvested?
The proceeds raised through the sale of the station will be a relatively small piece of what will be realised by rationing the police estate. All this will be reinvested in front line services, upgrading and modernising our stations and investing in new technology to help officers stay out in their communities and be more visible.
5. Some residents feel there has been a spike in crime since the police station closed, do you think having operational police stations in towns like Saffron Walden and Dunmow works as a crime deterrent?
We have no evidence to support that view. I don’t believe we need to have officers in stations waiting to be called, officers will respond from where they are out on patrol.
6. Crime has changed in the last 5-10 years – as one resident said “it isn’t Dixon of Dock Green anymore”. Do you think “boots on the ground” policing is what best serves our area?
Crime has changed and to be effective Essex Police has also had to change. Criminals are no longer pedestrian, online fraud is one of the biggest crimes facing our communities, children are often more at risk at home surfing the internet than when outside in their communities. We need to meet these challenges and work together to prevent crime. Policing in the community does prevent crime, but we also need to use technology better and realise everybody has a part to play in keeping communities safe. From reporting crime, participating as an Active Citizen or even becoming a special constable.
7. Is there anything else you would like to say to residents?
The true strength of British policing is in the support they receive from the community and the fact police are part of their community. Meetings such as last Thursday’s really help make sure we don’t lose sight of that.