Police chief answers critics
A senior police officer has called Leighton-Linslade one of the safest towns in Bedfordshire and has assured the public that crime-fighting will be rigorously pursued despite a shift in the way it is policed.
The town has undergone huge changes since the beginning of the month with most of the Hockliffe Road police station empty save for a couple of rooms used as a rest station for officers on patrol and community bobbies.
On Tuesday night Inspector Jim Hitch faced a police interrogation of his own when he answered concerns from the Leighton-Linslade Town Council’s police liaison sub committee about the standard of service residents are now receiving from a force primarily based in Luton.
Deputy town leader Amanda Dodwell demanded assurances that the town wasn’t subsidising regular policing through its Operation Dodford initiative which sees the council pay £40,000 a year for extra town centre patrols.
Other councillors wanted him to pledge that there would be a presence amid fears that towns with higher crime rates, like Luton and Bedford, would monopolise resources; that police numbers wouldn’t be cut and that “proper” police officers would not be entirely replaced by police community support officers.
Beds Police face cutting its expenditure by £19m and 70 per cent of its annual budget is taken up by staffing costs. Up to 100 officers are being forced to take early retirement and the entire force has been reorganised.
Insp Hitch said: “We are facing a 20 per cent cut in our budget. Other forces are similarly affected but it’s affecting us more adversely. We were cut to the bone before. Taking another 20 per cent is particularly harmful.
“Up until October 1 there were officers at Leighton. Their lockers were there, they were based there and worked from there. Now they are based at Luton. One of the savings we have made is to have fewer supervisors but in terms of policing Leighton the response times seem not to have changed.”
Insp Hitch introduced Ampthill sergeant Andy Rivers who is taking over the day-to-day control of the town’s PCSOs, as well as his own patch, from Sgt Chris Pollard, a Leighton officer who has been transferred to Bedford.
“I know the furore about the possible closure of the police station but nothing has been decided. The fact is crime is really low in Leighton, we’re a victim of our own success.”
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Weather for Leighton Buzzard
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 8 C
Wind Speed: 33 mph
Wind direction: North west
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