Uttlesford: Petition against Essex police cuts

A PETITION to oppose police cuts in Uttlesford has been pushed forward amid fears over officer visibility and response times.

Essex Police needs to trim �41million from its budget every year for the next four years, and recently set about implementing a ‘Blueprint’ – an overhaul of how it delivers its services, which will see a reduction of almost 400 officers and 100 PCSOs.

It also includes reducing front desk opening hours – including Saffron Walden’s base in East Street which is now open 12-6pm, Monday-Saturday – and closing stations entirely to the public – such as Stansted Mountfitchet – across Essex in a move to save �2.5m.

Essex Police argues that officers will be based in more public areas, such as supermarket car parks.

The force analysed the footfall at all of front counter locations for two weeks during November and December 2010.

Saffron Walden recorded 157 visits from the public, with 5.3 per cent after 6pm, 199 telephone calls were recorded with 4.5 per cent after 6pm. In comparison, Chelmsford police station had 370 visits and 761 phone calls.

But concerns have been raised that scaling back public-officer interaction could lead to an increased fear of crime, particularly with the most vulnerable. Town and district councillor Doug Perry, who is a former policeman, told the Reporter that the cuts are a “step backwards” in an area with a high number of elderly residents.

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“Essex Police has already taken the response team from Saffron Walden which means it takes longer to respond to incidents. With more frontline cuts this will only get worse,” he said.

“Without a presence on the streets the vital contact between the police and the public will be lost”

Saffron Walden town councillor Mike Hibbs has joined fellow Uttlesford Lib Dems in taking to the streets to drum up support. He said people were “queueing up” to sign the group’s petition in Saffron Walden Market Square on Saturday, with more than 120 people signing in just 45 minutes. Others are supporting the campaign online (ourcampaign.org.uk/essexpolicecuts).

“We want the bureaucracy cut so police officers can spend more time on the street,” said Cllr Hibbs. “The relationship between the public and the police is critical to how they do their job.”

He added: “I can’t understand why the station will be staffed, heated, maintained and full of officers but there are only certain times we can go and knock on the door and talk to someone. When someone needs to go to a police station they usually don’t have many other options.”

Chief superintendent Carl O’Malley, who leads the reform team, said: “Essex Police is a 24-hour service and officers will continue to be accessible round the clock, every day of the year, to members of the public.

“We will continue to find innovative ways of engaging with our communities. Our mobile police stations will be positioned in places of high demand and Neighbourhood Policing Teams will continue to hold local surgeries in their communities.” n Send us your thoughts: E-mail editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk