Over 120 residents put their questions to Bedfordshire Police in a well-attended public meeting in Leighton Buzzard today.
Many police officers attended Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre alongside South West Beds MP Andrew Selous and members of Leighton Linslade Town Council to hear the issues causing concern locally.
Comments from the public were varied and overwhelmingly reflected disappointment with the current policing arrangements in town.
One man drew laughter from the audience when he said: “I’ve never felt so secure in my life as I have this minute, there’s so many PCs and PCSOs - I’ve never seen it before!”
He added: “Small businesses in this town are going through hell, what happened in the Baldwins’ case was nothing short of disgusting.
“And then to be told by the same police officer, ‘You shouldn’t take the law into your own hands’, the people of Leighton Buzzard are having to do just that.”
Sgt Liam Mitchell leads the force’s community policing team based at the fire station and said it was a”misconception” that the town isn’t policed after 10pm.
He told those assembled that besides himself, the team consisted of seven PCs and three PCSOs working alternating shifts between 7am and 10pm, with other support coming from the rural crime team in Dunstable and overnight duties handled by the 24 hour emergency response team based in Luton and Dunstable.
One man in the audience said it was “disingenuous” to describe the community team as “local” when its patch stretches as far as Barton-Le-Clay.
Many comments related to problems caused by travellers in the area. Chief Supt Greg Horsford said that there are 47 independent traveller sites in Bedfordshire, with the majority of those based in the south of the county. A dedicated rural policing team is responsible for investigating crimes associated with travellers.
MP Andrew Selous told the assembly that he is continuing to lobby for a fairer funding deal for Bedfordshire Police.
He said: “Bedfordshire’s got about £3.5m less each year than the national funding formula said it would get.
“That really makes me angry, I’ve raised it constantly in the House of Commons... The Home Office have said they are going to move to a fairer funding formula but they won’t do it until 2020 and I’m saying that’s not good enough, we need to do it now.”
Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire said the force is 300 officers short of what is needed in order to meet demand and said that it was necessary to prioritise incidents based on their severity.
Ch Supt Horsford added: “I don’t take resources out of Leighton Buzzard, ever. These officers never go to Luton and all these resources based in Luton are also available across here.”
Crime levels in Leighton Buzzard were reported to account for 15% across Central Bedfordshire, with a 3% reduction from last year. Cllr David Bowater took issue with the calculated figures and claimed that the town is “subsidising” policing in Luton, which drew applause.
Other members of the audience thanked Beds Police for their hard work despite poor funding and limited resources.
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