New deal means extra police officers for Dunstable

PCC Kathryn Holloway at the Dunstable public meeting
PCC Kathryn Holloway at the Dunstable public meeting

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway and her senior police team launched a new deal on community policing for Dunstable announcing a team of officers dedicated to more visible policing in the town.

The PCC was joined last Tuesday night by Deputy Chief Constable Mark Collins to announce that five new Police Constables, nine Police Community Support Officers and two Sergeants will comprise a new “Community Hub” dedicated to building relationships with businesses and residents and tackling their everyday crime issues.

Commissioner Holloway said: “Dunstable is the fourth largest town in the county and community policing was stripped out four years ago. It’s high time it was put back.

“I made a promise that I would support Bedfordshire Police in returning high profile officers to be the Force’s eyes and ears on the ground and to make it easier for local people to pass on information on crime and those involved in it in their neighbourhoods and that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

“These officers will be deployed in addition to the existing crime and 999 response teams covering Dunstable and the new Operation Sentinel team which is tackling specific anti-social behaviour here in the south.

“After a summer where the residents of Dunstable have been frustrated by regular incursions by illegal encampments in the town centre and the nuisance of moped riders and motorcyclists it’s essential that they have a dedicated police team right here where these problems emerge to get on top of them right from the start and, ideally, to disrupt this activity before it takes a hold and being on the spot is key to that,” she said.

DCC Collins told the audience at Dunstable’s Community Fire Station: “We got it wrong over community policing which was withdrawn by a previous team to make savings. We’re now absolutely determined to put that right.

“These officers, making up the Community Hub, are the start and we may have to revisit that in future but it’s a real change for the better.”

He told members of the audience raising issues over nuisance cyclists, on pedal bikes as well as motorcycles, and traffic matters that these were precisely the sort of problems that a Community Hub should be addressing.

The audience also heard from Acting Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire over the success of last week’s special day of action as part of the Force’s Op Meteor programme to eradicate nuisance bikes in which two handguns, £10,000 in cash and “a huge quantity of drugs” had been seized in a planned series of raids and why it is important to report such activity to Bedfordshire Police on the 101 number.

“This showed the whole range of criminality that these individuals can be involved in or linked to as well as the problem of the nuisance bikes,” she said.

Wayne Humberstone, who leads the Force Control Room as well as heading up the Special Constabulary, spoke of the importance of reporting all criminal activity on the 101 number for non-life-threatening crime to allow an intelligence picture to be built and police resources to be directed to the issue.

He confirmed that 90% of 999 calls are answered in 10 seconds, with 87% of 101 calls also answered in 10 seconds. He said no answerphone exists in the control room “so a human being will always answer your 101 call.”

Acting Community Chief Insp Hob Hoque talked of the work of the Force’s Community Cohesion Team in building links with communities, neighbourhoods and schools across the county who have not had strong recent relationships with the police and urged those present, including a large contingent of Dunstable Town Councillors, to invite the team to the events they are planning around Christmas and beyond to boost a visible police presence in the town still further.

The audience was also asked to nominate vulnerable individuals for the “Bobby Van” scheme, run by the Bedfordshire Police Partnership Trust to provide a home security survey of their homes and install improvements recommended, such as upgraded door and window locks entirely free of charge to help prevent burglaries.

The announcement of the new Dunstable Community Hub, into which officers will be recruited and deployed between now and the Spring, follows similar announcements by Commissioner Holloway and Bedfordshire’s senior officers in Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Bedford and Biggleswade since she came into the post on May 12, 2016.

Leighton Buzzard will receive eight additional officers who will be based more centrally at the town’s Fire Station after the sale of the existing police station to Central Bedfordshire Council.

Luton will receive two Inspectors, four Sergeants, 15 PCSOs and 20 PCSOs, while Biggleswade will receive one Sergeant, four PCs and four PCSOs. Bedford is due to receive two Inspectors, one Sergeant, 11 PCs and seven PCSOs, as well as being based with the Fire Service on Barkers Lane and a new Enquiries Office on the High Street.

There will be further similar launches in Houghton Regis next month and Ampthill in the New Year, the Commissioner confirmed.