People of Norfolk have their say on impact of police cuts
11:44 30 June 2014
Archant Norfolk Copyright
With Norfolk’s chief constable insisting plans for the loss of 350 jobs to meet a £20.3m funding gap will “safeguard” the frontline and the force’s “commitment to neighbourhood policing” crime correspondent Peter Walsh visited two of the county’s Safer Neighbourhood Team areas to see what people thought.
Following Simon Bailey’s announcement that 350 jobs in the force were to go over the next four years as part of plans to make millions of pounds worth of savings, fears were raised that the cuts might run too deep in terms of enabling the county to remain safe.
Mr Bailey said the plans, which include axing 120 police officer posts and 120 Police Community Support Officer posts (PCSOs), were designed to try and protect the front line as far as possible.
But Nigel Dowdney, who has this year suffered two armed robberies at the Earlham Shopper store he runs in Norwich, said the decision was “very sad news” and did not sound as if it was protecting the front line.
Mr Dowdney, who also has a store in Stalham and is a director of and East Anglian spokesman for the Association of Convenience Stores, was particularly concerned about the reduction in PCSOs who were introduced as the “eyes and ears” of the police following the roll out of Safer Neighbourhood Teams.
Norwich West Safer Neighbourhood Team
The Norwich West Safer Neighbourhood Team has staff operating out of a base at Earlham Police Station.
The neighbourhood covers the west of the city including the areas of West Earlham, University, Larkman, Marlpit, Dereham Road, Cloverhill and Three Score.
Day-to-day policing is delivered by this team and neighbourhood patrol officers on a five shift system, who provide a 24/7 patrol and response function.
These policing resources are regularly supplemented by additional specialist resources, for example roads policing or police dog units, pro-active policing units as well as detectives from a number of different specialist teams.
The SNT, led by Insp Nigel Richards and five police sergeants, comprises five police constable beat managers and 13 PCSOs who provide a consistent presence in the community and work closely with community groups and members of the public to identify and resolve community issues.
Current neighbourhood priorities are:
• Anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and thefts from Marlpit Community Garden.
• Theft and criminal damage at allotments across the neighbourhood.
• Fly-tipping and littering issues at West Earlham.
Today, we speak to people on the ground in two Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) areas – a city area, Norwich West, which includes the University area, and a more rural area, Stalham, which includes Hoveton and Horning, to see what people living in these areas think about the proposals and how the cuts will impact upon them.
• NORWICH WEST
Stalham Safer Neighbourhood Team
The Stalham Safer Neighbourhood Team has officers operating out of a base at Stalham Police Station.
Day-to-day policing is delivered by this team and neighbourhood patrol officers in the district who work on a five-shift system and who provide a 24/7 patrol and response function.
Policing in Stalham, in line with all areas of the county, is supplemented as required by additional specialist resources for example roads policing or police dog units, pro-active policing units and detectives from a number of different specialist teams.
The SNT, led by Insp Kersty Brooks and a police sergeant, comprises a police constable beat manager and three PCSOs who provide a consistent presence in the community and work closely with partner agencies, community groups and members of the public to identify and resolve community issues.
Current neighbourhood priorities, agreed at a meeting earlier this month, are:
• Speeding in Catfield
• Speeding in Ludham
• Anti-social behaviour in Stalham
The Stalham policing neighbourhood takes in the market town along with the neighbouring parishes of Ashmanhaugh, Barton Turf, Brumstead, Catfield, East Ruston, Happisburgh, Hickling, Horning, Horsey, Hoveton, Ingham, Lessingham, Ludham, Neatishead, Potter Heigham, Sea Palling, Smallburgh, Sutton, Tunstead and Walcott.
While there have been high-profile crimes in this area, including the ATM ram raid at the University of East Anglia in January, the vast majority of problems dealt with by police are for less serious matters.
Between May 2013 and April 2014 most incidents dealt with by police related to anti-social behaviour, with police receiving 1,284 reports, which accounted for 36pc of the incidents reported in this period.
According to the Police.UK website, which publishes details of crime throughout the country, violence and sexual offences accounted for 15.5pc (549) of offences, while criminal damage and arson made up 10.3pc (364) of crime committed over the period.
Drugs offences (286) were also an issue in the area and made up 8.1pc of offences.
It is figures like these which cause some people living in the area to fear what the future might hold once the cuts, which were announced last week, start to bite.
Stephanie Innes, 23, who lives near County Hall but whose mother lives in the Beverley Road area, said that she was concerned about the cuts.
She said: “I’m quite worried about not having the police about in my mum’s area. There are gangs around there, which is worrying.
“It’s going to affect a lot of the people around this area. If there are no police officers around here what are they going to do? More crime will be committed.”
Laura Worsfold, 21, an education studies student at the UEA who lives in the Larkman area of the city, said it was “nice to see PCSOs walking around”. She said she did not really see much crime-wise, but did not know whether that was because police and PCSOs were around or because of the area.
She said: “I don’t really know what impact they have at the moment.
“I guess it will only be known when they do go.”
Adam Leach, 31, from Earlham Green Lane, who has lived in the area all his life, said he was not concerned about the prospect of fewer officers on the streets.
He said: “It doesn’t worry me. We don’t tend to have trouble, it’s quite a nice area – a lot nicer than it used to be.
“But things change and what’s to say they’re not going to change when the police aren’t there.”
Katie Godfrey, 19, who is from Cambridge originally, but is currently a student at the UEA where she lives in halls of residence, said she “felt safe in Norwich”. She said: “I don’t really feel that I need to worry about the cuts.”
Horning, a picturesque riverside village, is a vision of tranquillity which is one of the areas which forms part of the Stalham SNT.
The issues – and levels of crime – in the Broads villages which make up the SNT are very different to those in the city, although anti-social behaviour is still the biggest problem.
Of the 774 incidents dealt with by police between May 2013 and April 2014, anti-social behaviour (327) accounted for 42pc, while violence and sexual offences (105) made up 13.5pc and criminal damage and arson (89) accounted for 11.5pc of crime.
But while crime might be low in this beautiful part of the county, there is still concern from some people living in Horning that the cuts might threaten the peaceful life that they have become so accustomed to.
Andrew Seddon, 56, sub-postmaster of Horning Post Office, said: “Yes, I probably think there does have to be a concern. We get visits on a regular basis, as I’m sure other businesses around here do.”
Chris Smith, 44, who lives in the village, said police should not have announced the cuts so publicly, thereby alerting criminals that there would be fewer officers. But while he said he thought there might be more crime as a result, he did not think it would impact on Horning. He said: “I think if they get rid of them there will be more crime. In Horning, probably not, but in Mile Cross, probably. It depends where you live.”
Mr Smith said police only really had to deal with “river trouble” issues in Horning, for example if a stag do on the river got a bit rowdy, but nothing more serious than that.
“The police do a great job. You shouldn’t have to see anyone lose their jobs. At the end of the day people have to work. Everyone should be working and then we wouldn’t have any crime.”
Sandra Bowyer, who has lived in Horning for 10 years, said she had not seen PCSOs in the area very often, so did not think that the cuts would make too much of a difference while Angela Ward, 54, from Hickling, said she was also unconcerned about the cuts as she felt safe in Hickling.