Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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PCC announces doubling of existing Community Police Constables with a trouble shooting task force for neighbourhoods as part of largest cop recruitment in Bedfordshire for a decade

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has announced that she is backing the doubling of the current strength of PCs in Community Policing countywide including those forming a new unit of trouble shooters to move into an area to target and stamp out a key crime issue at neighbourhood level, (at a meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Community Safety Partnership Executive on Thursday, 7 March).

The recruitment of the officers and trouble shooting team will be introduced this financial year and will see a boost in PCs working in Community Policing Hubs across Bedfordshire’s towns, which also serve the surrounding area - in Luton (which has two Hubs as the largest town in the county), Bedford, Biggleswade, Dunstable (also serving Houghton Regis) and Leighton Buzzard. (The eighth Community Policing Hub is based at Luton Airport but is subject to separate arrangements as the PCC receives full cost recovery for officers working there from the airport management company. A mini Hub in Ampthill of a PC and PCSO based at the Community Fire Station will also benefit from the boost to the Biggleswade team).

“Every community and those who represent it, such as MPs and councillors, have been crying out for an uplift to officers dedicated to Neighbourhood Policing. The Hubs are working; they are out and about in communities every day and also set three local community priorities every few months with these elected representatives and other key community groups to concentrate on at any one time, but we need to give them more help given the scale of public demand, and provide it through officers with full warranted powers, hence this announcement,” said PCC Holloway.

“I had already pledged that Bedfordshire Police would recruit more officers this year than in any year for a decade - 160 - of whom 60 are brand new posts above the level the Force had planned for; 100 will replace those leaving through retirement or other issues this year (with 80 replacements needed on average annually). Where the extra officers are concerned, I have worked with the Force to ensure that those spending an extra £2 a month on council tax this year can see a change which they would welcome. These will be genuine extra officers in communities, recruited for the purpose of neighbourhood policing,” she said.

An extra four PCs specialising in Community Policing will join each of the Hub teams based in Luton North, Luton South, Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable (covering Houghton Regis), North Urban (covering Bedford), and North Rural (covering Ampthill).

Bedfordshire Police is also to create a Neighbourhood Intervention Team of a Sergeant and nine new PCs who will be a permanent trouble shooting unit to move around the county to deal with pernicious issues as they arise in communities, at neighbourhood level, anywhere in Bedfordshire. The team was inspired by the success of Operation Hilton in Dunstable, which followed a public meeting held by the PCC and attended by Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher in late August 2018. Op Hilton successfully targeted drug dealers and resulted in multiple arrests and the seizure of Class A drugs, weapons and counterfeit money over a fortnight of focussed operational deployments.

“The only problem was that Op Hilton ran on the basis of overtime and Bedfordshire Police simply couldn’t afford that on a permanent basis. I am supporting the Deputy Chief Constable, Garry Forsyth, in the Neighbourhood Intervention Team initiative as it is a way to try to go in hard and swiftly to deal with pernicious problems as they arise in a particular neighbourhood, if they are on a scale which outstrips those available to deal with them within the existing local Community Policing Hub,” said Commissioner Holloway.

The PCC has also approved a longer term plan to recruit a further 120 PCs next year and between 110 and 120 in the year after that, in 2021-22.

“It’s been hugely important to me to put Bedfordshire Policing recruitment on a firm footing over a longer term than my own in this office; which comes to an end in May 2020. It’s the right thing to do as the Force needs some certainty around this in order to plan and so do our communities, whatever happens at the ballot box!” said Commissioner Holloway.

The Community Hubs are devoted to a combination of problem solving and public engagement and are comprised of specialist Sergeants, PCs and PCSOs. The Biggleswade Hub (known as North Rural) also covers the neighbouring areas of Shefford, Sandy and Potton plus the PC and PCSO based in Ampthill. Hubs in Dunstable (covering Houghton Regis) and Leighton Buzzard work within their urban bases and also in neighbouring rural villages. The Rural Crime Team - known as Op Sentinel Rural - which is now the largest in the seven force area of the East of England, also forms part of Bedfordshire Police’s Community Policing Unit and deals with those crimes which take place purely because of their country location and which require specialist knowledge of legislation, including in relation to illegal traveller encampments, hare coursing, poaching on an industrial scale, illegal hunting and hunt saboteurs, as examples, and back up the rural work of the Hubs.

At the meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Community Safety Partnership Executive, at the local authority headquarters at Chicksands, where the PCC made her announcement, councillors warmly welcomed the news.

“You’ve got to let people know about this. An extra 60 officers overall this year is a huge increase in Bedford Police terms and it’s important that people know new recruits are going into Community Policing,” said Cllr. Delgarno, who is also a member of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel which holds the PCC to account.