Residents pack Saffron Walden Town Hall to voice concerns to Essex PCC
PUBLISHED: 11:38 03 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:38 03 February 2017
More than 100 residents packed into Saffron Walden Town Hall last night to voice their concerns about crime in the district to Essex's police and crime commissioner (PCC).
PCC Roger Hirst, who was appointed in May, faced a barrage of questions from residents regarding the state of Uttlesford’s policing, with many unhappy over a lack of police presence in towns and villages.
Mr Hirst outlined his seven policing priorities at the public meeting, which included more local, visible and accessible policing, tackling gangs and organised crime, protecting children and vulnerable people and improving road safety.
The PCC said residents could expect to see an increase in police visibility in the district when the new Lodge building at the offices of Uttlesford District Council opens shortly.
Mr Hirst also stated his commitment to double the number of specials officers, who have full police powers, in the county in the next 18 months.
But some residents were unconvinced and questioned the increase in the police precept when services continued to be cut.
The PCC also faced several difficult questions regarding the sale of Saffron Walden’s police station, with one resident accusing Mr Hirst of trying to pull the wool over his eyes.
The resident said: “Why try to kid us? If you wanted to sell the police station, you should have just come out and said it, not hid behind these chemical leaks and infestations.
“We are all adults, people don’t like to be lied to.”
Mr Hirst responded: “No-one is telling lies. It is a old building which is no longer fit for modern policing.”
Howard Rolfe, leader of Uttlesford District Council, made the point of Essex Police being the lowest funded in the country and said funding more specials officers would ensure more “boots on the ground” policing in the district.
District Commander Craig Carrington also spoke at the meeting and highlighted the challenges that the force is facing.
He said: “This is the most challenging period I have experienced in my time in policing due to financial cuts. We have to prioritise high level crime but we are committed to working with communities.
“What I want to stress is that when you need us, we will come and help you.”
Speaking after the meeting, district councillor and former mayor of Saffron Walden Heather Asker said: “What is revealing is that the police commissioner clearly has no comprehension about local issues here in Uttlesford - Essex doesn’t stop at the A120.
“The district population is growing and one PSCO for every 42,000 people isn’t enough. We’ve had a spike in burglaries and thefts in the town since the police station was closed.
“People are furious that the commissioner has retreated the police to Braintree and now is asking us to pay more council tax for the privilege.”
Dunmow town councillor Alex Armstrong added: “It is no better in the south of the district. It seems that criminals are back down the A120 and M11 well before the police even make it over the border from Braintree.
“Even yesterday there was a second masked bank raid on the Dunmow High Street. Thank goodness no one was harmed.
“Residents feel it is becoming increasingly lawless. We are rightly concerned and residents want stronger action on crime in Uttlesford.”