Uttlesford’s police chief Craig Carrington outlines his vision for the district

Uttlesford District Commander Craig Carrington

Uttlesford District Commander Craig Carrington - Credit: Archant

Approaching his first year as district commander for Uttlesford, Chief Inspector Craig Carrington openly admits he has found the role “challenging”.

Saffron Walden Police Station. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Saffron Walden Police Station. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

Mr Carrington, who was appointed in January this year, says the financial cuts have had a severe impact on the force as well as the public’s expectations of officers.

He said although he believes the role of the police officer is still evolving in the digital age, he can sympathise with residents who have complained about a lack of a visible police presence in the district.

The new police building in the grounds of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) in Saffron Walden is due to open early in the new year and Mr Carrington is expecting the new premises to make a difference to the community.

He said: “I think the impact of austerity and the closures of stations and reduction in officers has obviously affected the visibility of the police in the district.

The Lodge building, which will house police officers and support staff from next year

The Lodge building, which will house police officers and support staff from next year - Credit: Archant

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“Since the cuts, I think it’s been challenging to meet the public’s expectations of officers as situations we attended previously are now better suited to one of our partners.

“So it’s about managing those expectations, but I think with the new Lodge building at UDC, it will enable us to work even closer with our partners to ensure incidents are dealt with quickly and by the right authority and ensure that presence.

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“I would say Uttlesford is a very large district, 487 sq miles, and it is very rare nowadays that people stop and talk to one of our frontline officers.

“The reduction in numbers of PCSOs has played a part, because they were the officers people in communities knew by name and spoke to.

“I do understand the point of view but we have to manage our resources and continue our main focus of keeping people safe, which we still deliver on.

“I’m sure people can understand that the role of the police officer is ever-evolving in the digital age, and we have to adapt in order to tackle the different types of crime we now face.”

Crime statistics for the district up to September this year show incidents of anti-social behaviour are down 13 per cent along with decreases in burglary, robbery and vehicle interference.

Increases were seen in domestic abuse, sexual offences and violence against the person. A spike was also seen in racially aggravated offences – and the district commander admits there was an increase after Brexit.

He said: “I would hesitate to link it all to Brexit. I think there are a lot of things going on internationally with the Syrian refugees, for example, which impact on people’s attitudes locally.

“We didn’t see a sharp rise, but there were tensions and an increase after the referendum. I would hope that victims felt confident in coming forward and reporting the offences.”

The chief inspector says, looking forward, he is aiming to work closer with rural communities and increase the amount of volunteers who can help the force.

He said: “I want to get the Lodge building open in Saffron Walden and begin patrolling from there. I also want to give more support to our rural communities and we are launching horse watch and dog watch – which are initiatives members of the public can get involved in to be additional eyes and ears in the community.

“We are looking to recruit more special constables, particularly in Saffron Walden and I would urge people in the district to get involved to help us.

“The Dunmow Carnival this year was entirely policed by special constables and that’s a good example.

“Our priorities remain with keeping people safe and reacting quickly to incidents and so any additional help that can enable us to do that more effectively is welcomed.”

A police and crime commissioner public meeting for Uttlesford will take place at Saffron Walden Town Hall on December 8 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, with the commissioner Roger Hirst and Mr Carrington.

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