Dunstable and Houghton Regis have been left languishing with fewer police resources and rising crime rates, according to statistics.
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel met yesterday to discuss staffing levels at the community crime hubs across the county.
Figures show that the Dunstable and Houghton Regis hub is understaffed, with two PCs and four PCSOs short of what is required.
Furthermore, statistics from Bedfordshire Police show that the ratio of crime per head in Dunstable and Houghton Regis is now higher than Luton – with one crime for every 47 people in Dunstable, one in 59 in Houghton Regis – versus one in 63 in Luton and one per 100 in Leighton Buzzard.
Houghton Regis Town Councillor Martin Kennedy said: “Policing has been the number one concern on the doorstep whilst we have been canvassing over the last few months.
“Foot patrols and visible police presence at known hot spots will raise the confidence of the law abiding populaton, increasing community confidence and engagement.”
A CCTV report of incidents in Houghton Regis town centre was presented by the anti-social behaviour team of Central Bedfordshire Council last year. It showed 12 crimes in Houghton Regis town centre from April to June 2017 –including a stabbing and a sexual assault in Bedford Square – with no arrests made.
Current staffing levels at the Dunstable hub include one part-time inspector, two sergeants, three PCs and five PCSOs, with two PCs and four PCSOs needed.
Nearby Leighton Buzzard is served with one part-time inspector, one sergeant, six PCs and three PCSOs, the report states it requires an additional two PCs.
Cllr Kennedy added: “Leighton Buzzard and the villages have nearly twice as many PCs in Neighbourhood Policing as Houghton Regis and Dunstable combined. Houghton has a crime rate twice that of Leighton, and I cannot believe that operational police would consider this a sensible use of resources.”
Cllr Kennedy claimed Houghton Regis was being shortchanged for political reasons by the Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway. Mrs Holloway’s office was contacted but failed to respond before we went to press.
Bedfordshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: “Our community teams are only one aspect of the policing service we provide to tackle issues across Bedfordshire.
“We have a range of operational teams such as response, community safety, crime investigation, public protection, guns and gangs and serious & organised crime and are further supported by the tri-force (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire) collaborated teams which include major crime, forensics, roads policing, armed policing and the dog unit.
“Alongside these units we have a hub-based approach to community policing to ensure we have a presence in main towns across Bedfordshire and we do have officers and PCSOs based in Dunstable and Houghton Regis.
“These officer numbers can vary between areas for a number of reasons and we still retain the ability to flex resources to manage issues which pose the most threat and risk to our communities – this could include additional officers being deployed to certain areas if there are ongoing issues or an increase in crime. This allows us to prioritise protecting the most vulnerable in society.
“We continue to work to improve the efficiency of our teams, as part of our commitment to community policing, to ensure we provide the most effective service to the public.”