Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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Police and Crime Commissioners Two Years on Roadshow: Leighton Buzzard
 Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, was joined by the Force’s Deputy Chief Constable, Garry Forsyth, and members of the town’s Community Policing Hub Team to set the record straight on crime in the town at a packed public meeting.
 
The meeting took place at Mentmore Pavilion, Mentmore Road, Linslade, Leighton Buzzard (Thursday 29 August 2018) and was attended by residents, town councillors and the MP for South West Bedfordshire, Andrew Selous.
 
“It's incredibly important to set out what the actual facts are on crime in Leighton Buzzard and also to hear from residents themselves. Of those attending a packed meeting only six had experienced the crimes that dominate calls to the 999 Response officers of Bedfordshire Police - robbery, assault, theft or burglary. That doesn’t mean other experiences don't count of course. We heard residents complaining of a group of youths on bicycles on the High Street and a fear factor around Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) more generally which is why we have a Community Hub Team in Leighton Buzzard who work every day to address those problems,” said the Commissioner.
 
There were questions from the audience which were collected on individual cards so that any that were not answered on the night could be taken away and responded to which is what this briefing shall detail:
 
Asked why the town had lost its Enquiries Office and the police had moved from the old station to the Community Fire Station, PCC Holloway explained:
 
“Before I came into this role, I could not have known what the figures were for the footfall to the old station’s Enquiries Office - which had closed before I came into this position, as I started on 15 May 2016. The evidence shows that an average of only two people a day were coming into the Enquiries Office to report matters to police because we all have mobile phones or landlines these days and can also report online. There was a very clear choice; if you still had an Enquiries Office and its civilian staff, you wouldn’t have Sergeant Liam Mitchell and his seven PCs and three PCSOs which form the largest team ever specifically dedicated to neighbourhood policing and problem solving in this town.”
 
DCC Forsyth confirmed this adding: “I was not part of the decision to close Leighton Buzzard’s Enquiries Office, which happened before I arrived, but I’ve closed down many front counters and there’s always a footfall analysis first. It’s very clear; either you can have an empty building with no cops in it or a team of cops on the streets of Leighton Buzzard working to solve problems for you and I'm certain I know which you’d choose.”
 
The Commissioner defended the decision to relocate the Leighton Buzzard Community Hub Team - a Sergeant, seven PCs and three PCSOs acting under an Inspector, Chief Inspector and Superintendent Greg Horsford, who was also on the panel. “The old police station was not right here in the centre of the town as the Community Fire Station is, right off the High Street, Market Place and centre of policing demand around the shops and businesses by day and pubs and restaurants by night. What’s more, the Fire Station which they now share is a building you already pay for. There are visible police vehicles outside and they didn’t get here by magic. They were driven by police officers now working in your town.”
 
The Commissioner also addressed the myth that the Community Team works only until 10pm and that no police cover is available afterwards, by pointing to recent Hub activity until at least 3am to target those seeking to steal from vans and cars. Supt. Horsford confirmed that the 999 Response service covers the town after that time and that such crews do not return to their original bases between calls, but are tasked to Leighton Buzzard late at night and in the early morning. The panel referred to the swift response to a recent robbery at the Stanbridge Post Office at 5.37am. 
 
PCC Holloway pointed to significant progress by the Leighton Buzzard Community Hub Team over the last year in driving down street drinking and begging in the town centre to a few individuals, all of whom are known by the team, who continue to work with them (including arranging accommodation for one homeless man who has rejected it). 
 
Sgt Liam Mitchell, who leads the Community Hub Team, confirmed that even the persistent nuisance cyclists, mentioned at the meeting, have been targeted by his team with the use of ASB and Community Protection Orders, including orders issued to parents which can attract a jail sentence. Sgt. Mitchell said this has meant that a particular group of cyclists had stopped causing a nuisance throughout the recent school summer holidays. 
 
He also spoke of the reduction of street drinkers from a group of around 20-30 to approximately four and the Environmental Audit being carried out for consideration with the council to deal with other ASB issues, such as noise. He also gave details of successful recent arrests for both drugs and burglary in the town as a direct result of the work of his team, most of whom were in attendance to speak to residents at the end of the meeting.
 
Sgt Mitchell explained that it has never been easier to get in contact with his Community Hub Team or find out what they have been doing; the team has its own Facebook page (with approximately 1600 likes from residents) - Leighton Buzzard community policing team - with a link at the top to get in touch. 
 
Crime worries can also be reported via the Bedfordshire Police website -bedfordshire.police.uk - which, if someone wants to report a crime, offers the chance to do so in writing online or to speak to an operator via a webchat. A local issue can be reported via the “Raise a Concern” section.
 
The “Your local area” section, gives details of recent prosecutions, newsletters from the Hub team and news stories, if a search is entered for Leighton Buzzard.
 
Sgt Mitchell confirmed the Hub Team’s local area priorities are set at quarterly meetings with Town Councillors and other partners to give them a voice on how policing is delivered in the town.
 

The DCC when asked about the purpose of the PCC role replied that he enjoyed a positive relationship with the current Police and Crime Commissioner who had already done so much for Bedfordshire in such a passionate way. 
 

The Commissioner also spoke of the “fear factor” which is created by websites making claims which had often not withstood police scrutiny.
 
On the subject of thefts from vehicles, she pointed to the traditional problem in the town, first reported to her before she came into the role, in October 2015, given the quick getaway offered by the A5. The PCC asked the audience to consider the deterrent factor of notices which are widely used stating that “no valuables or equipment are contained in this vehicle overnight” and confirmed that, as the owner of a small business herself in the past, she would not have left the equipment on which her livelihood depended anywhere in an unattended car or van. “This is not, of course, passing the buck for such thefts to victims and this is why there has been such a push to target vehicle thefts by the Community Hub Team,” she said.
 
The following questions were collated, but it was not possible to read out on the night. Please note they have not been changed since submission.
 
1.  Has Bedfordshire Police looked at joining Hertfordshire closing the management and Chief Constable to save money?

Response from Bedfordshire Police -
A full merger business case was produced in 2010 but it was not agreed as a sustainable way forward. Since then the force has been through a significant level of collaboration with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire and across the region. This has delivered great savings and also enhanced the specialist policing services available in Bedfordshire around major crime investigation, counter terrorism policing, roads policing, forensics and armed policing – plus a range of other services both operational and support such as IT and HR. These collaboration agreements are constantly reviewed to improve efficiency and deliver even greater savings for all forces involved. We are also working closely with blue light services, particularly Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service to see how we can work more closely and save money.

2.  Is Luton Airport paying an increased contribution towards Bedfordshire Policing? Why only two policing hubs in the county? Was any police called to account RE cost of Baldwins case? What happened to the police presence at LB fire station that we were promised? How many back room staff at police HQ?

Response from Bedfordshire Police -
Bedfordshire Police has a dedicated Airport Policing Unit, comprising a community policing team which is based at London Luton Airport which is fully paid for by the airlines, as per the associated legislation.

We re-modelled our policing model in light of our resourcing challenges and through extensive analysis of our demand data. All of the evidence showed that operating from two main response hubs was the most effective way of covering the county, however since the arrival of our current Police & Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway, we have supplemented that by introducing a number of community hubs across Bedfordshire to ensure a local presence in our towns and villages as part of our commitment to community policing.

Regarding the Baldwin’s Case. No. This was a very serious incident which involved the repeated and deliberate discharge of a firearm in a public place, against individuals who were unknown and unidentified, who were entirely innocent and were in fact police officers responding to the reported crime.
There was a public interest in investigating this incident, it is the job of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to investigate alleged criminality and present evidence to a court to be tested by a jury.

One of the Community Hubs is based at the Fire Station in Leighton Buzzard and provides the full functions of community policing. 

The force went through a significant restructure of its support functions in 2012, which has achieved large savings. In addition the Human Resource and IT functions are collaborated with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire and therefore the size of the support functions in Bedfordshire are low in comparison with other forces nationally.

 
3.  I asked the Chief Constable as to how much of the police budget (in terms of cash and percentage or total) was spent on travellers sites and crime committed by travellers. His reply was ‘they do not collate such detail in any way that would provide any meaningful data as requested’. If I asked for the information as a freedom of information request it well be declined as the time taken to collect the data in would take for in excess of the 18 hours that the legislation states. How can they ask for an increase for funds when we don’t know what they spend their money on?

Response from Bedfordshire Police -
As an emergency service which responds to 999 calls a response unit could be attending numerous incidents per shift so it can be very difficult to determine how much of their time, and therefore cost, is specifically related to travellers sites. Where we run specific proactive operations these can be costed, but in the main the costs mentioned are incurred as part of daily business. 
 
As a public service we are fully accountable to the public. All of our accounts are published on the force website which are available to view here.
 

4.  Drug deals on every corner blatantly selling drugs. Make prisons harder, take away all luxuries so they won’t want to go back.
 
Response from Sgt Mitchell of Bedfordshire Police -
Whilst we have no control over sentences or the prison system. We can, and do, take action in relation to drug dealing at a local level and above. The key message is one of reporting, to enable us to build a picture of who is involved and where officers should target. Information can now be submitted online at
https://www.bedfordshire.police.uk/report/Report

5.  It seems every answer that Bedfordshire has no resources and no budget so we just have to put up with fear and crime. Why does Herts have £55m reserve and Beds £3m? Is this financial mismanagement? Should all of these questions be going to the MP? Criminals now know that if they commit a crime in Leighton the response is so slow they will get away with low risk of capture. Are you saying that it is all due to poor budget so we just have to live with it?

Response from Bedfordshire Police -
The latest set of figures on PCC reserve levels showed that Bedfordshire had a total of £8.4m in reserves of which £3m was in general reserves which are put aside for any exceptional circumstances, such as major incidents or large, complex cases. The equivalent figures for Hertfordshire are £28m and £6m. Recognising that Hertfordshire is approximately twice the size of Bedfordshire, it would suggest that both PCCs are applying the same levels of financial management. In addition, due to the financial constraints in Bedfordshire, for which both the PCC and Chief Constable have continued to raise their concerns with the Government, it has not been possible to put as much money into reserves as other forces. The funding we receive therefore, through Central Grant and Council Tax is used to provide policing activity now rather than hold significant reserves.
 
6.  I was hit by a car down Hockliffe Road last month and nothing was done about it at all. The case was closed within a week and no one told me. This accident has impacted my life and I feel like no one on the Police Force care that this man is still driving around. Why has nothing been done?

 
Response from Sgt Mitchell of Bedfordshire Police -
Without further information, I cannot say. If you send me the person’s details I will look into it.
 
7.  Regarding the police presence, why is the double crewed cars policing – why not single crew allowing better coverage and more efficient?

 
Response from Sgt Mitchell of Bedfordshire Police -
Bedfordshire Police do have a single crewing policy. The community policing team also follow this policy. Single crewing is the default, but officers may crew together in response to the threat posed by a specific incident or tasking. You may also see cars double crewed when the officer is still on probationary training.

8.  After 21 years living here– There has been an increase in crime locally and in the town, ourselves and all immediate neighbours have been victims of criminal damage, burglary, van theft, and attempted caravan theft. Clear up is 090 in spite of CCTV submission (Home CCTV). Could move council CCTV be installed in Linslade to acquire the necessary images to assist clear up?
 
Response from Sgt Mitchell of Bedfordshire Police -

We work closely with our local councils and deployable CCTV cameras are an option in some instances. There is a high demand for these, and they are deployed where needed most. I would encourage people to report every instance of crime or anti-social behaviour. This not only supports any potential camera applications, but also assists in making sure that officers are deployed as effectively as possible.
 
9.  Why do we never see an officer in Linslade except when we have a council festival or a meet up such as this?

Response from Sgt Mitchell of Bedfordshire Police -

Community patrols are focused on where they are needed most, and I know that the team are regularly in Linslade for one reason or another. Public gatherings and events are a great way to maximise the number of people that we get to speak to, to get a better feel of local concerns and where our activity should be focussed.
 

10. The town needs a more direct venue to be able to consult with the police and meet officers on a face to face basis. The current fire station location is not adequate. What can be done about providing this?
 
Response from Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway -
Before I came into this role, I could not have known what the figures were for the footfall to the old station’s Enquiries Office - which had closed before I came into this position, as I started on 15 May 2016. The evidence shows that an average of only two people a day were coming into the Enquiries Office to report matters to police because we all have mobile phones or landlines these days and can also report online. There was a very clear choice; if you still had an Enquiries Office and its civilian staff, you wouldn’t have Sergeant Liam Mitchell and his seven PCs and three PCSOs which form the largest team ever specifically dedicated to neighbourhood policing and problem solving in this town.

Response from Sgt Mitchell of Bedfordshire Police -
It has never been easier to get in contact with the Community Hub Team or find out what we have been doing. The team has its own Facebook page (with approximately 1600 likes from residents) -
Leighton Buzzard community policing team - with a link at the top to get in touch.