'We're losing confidence in police', says Northampton residents' group

Councillor Julie Davenport(Lab, Delapre and Far Cotton).
Councillor Julie Davenport(Lab, Delapre and Far Cotton).

"People feel that crime is getting worse because the criminals know there are not enough police and cannot respond to many crimes because they appear to be firefighting and only dealing with emergencies."

This is the view from one councillor in Far Cotton who is saying residents need to feel safer in their own streets following 19 thefts from motor vehicles, nine non-house burglaries and five domestic burglaries in February alone.

Speaking at Far Cotton Residents Association, in January, Inspector Dave Rayfield said he is now the only police inspector in Northampton’s neighbourhood policing team and has a team of just 14 people patrolling the town.

And after being questioned about the numbers of officers on the beat in Far Cotton, he said there are only two officers - on different shift patterns - who take to the streets.

Councillor Julie Davenport (Lab, Delapre and Far Cotton) said: "Residents do want a better police presence as a deterrent.

“People will know police are in the area and could get to a crime quicker.

"Also it will make people feel safer to have that visible police presence."

Minutes from January's meeting say that the vice chairman, Ron Fitzhugh, felt "many of the public are losing confidence in the police", giving the reason that lots of resources seem to be used for internet and child protection crimes.

In February 2017, the police and crime commissioner, Stephen Mold announced 30 new bobbies will be placed on the beat across Northamptonshire as part of a £2 million plan to reduce the number of unsolved crimes in the county – and to increase the force’s visible presence.

The move followed a consultation involving 2,000 residents in the county. It's understood the new officers will be deployed in April.

In January he advised the county’s Police and Crime Panel, who oversee the activities of the PCC, that he intends to raise an additional £3.97million for policing through the 2018/19 council tax policing precept to provide Northamptonshire Police with additional resources to make Northamptonshire safer.

"Dangerous parking is not something the police have the manpower for it would seem," the councillor added.

"People park illegally, especially on the school runs. They park on corners of streets, near zebra and pedestrian crossings, they block the paths so people cannot pass but nothing is done due to no police.

"People feel someone will have to die first before something is done."

Last week the force was graded as ‘requires improvement’ in all areas inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) in 2017.

The inspection found some crimes are being recorded incorrectly and several incidents had been wrongly assigned to the telephone investigation team because not enough response officers were available to attend immediately.

The report said the force resolves a high proportion 45.1 per cent of calls by telephone, or in a police station, without sending an officer to investigate at the scene. The equivalent figure across England and Wales is 30.3 percent.

The reports says: "Moreover, the force intends to increase the proportion of investigations it conducts by telephone still further.

"In some cases, a telephone investigation is entirely appropriate and makes the best use of police resources. However, during our inspection, we found several incidents that had been wrongly assigned to the telephone investigation team because not enough response officers were available to attend immediately"

Police and crime commissioner Stephen Mold said: “There is no doubt that on behalf of the public I am unhappy with the rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ from HMICFRS and I have discussed the report at length with the Chief Constable to ensure he is aware of my feelings around this."

He went on to say the staff and officers of Northamptonshire Police are doing a fantastic job under challenging conditions.

Superintendent Chris Hillery, head of local policing at Northants Police, said that the 14 officers mentioned at this meeting in January do not include response officers, special constables, PCSOs.

He said the area is also covered by the East Midlands Operational Support Service (EMOpSS).

Supt Hillery said a new policing model had consigned to the past the practice of neighbourhood police officers spend a large proportion of their time deployed to emergencies or being tasked to work outside of their geographic communities. This meant that they were unable to "effectively identify and problem-solve community issues".

He said: “This changed when our new policing model was introduced last October with neighbourhood police officers and PCSOs now entirely focused on working with partner agencies and the community to understand local issues and engage with the public in a more meaningful way.

“Our police officers work extremely hard to protect their communities from harm and we are absolutely committed to continue doing that despite the challenges we face.”