Demand for public meeting to debate Leighton Buzzard’s crime concerns

Leighton Buzzard news
Leighton Buzzard news

Leighton-Linslade Town Council is urging Beds Police to attend a public meeting so officers can hear first-hand about rising concerns over anti-social behaviour and crime .

Town and Central Beds Councillor Amanda Dodwell yesterday met with town council leader Cllr Ewan Wallace and town clerk Mark Saccoccio to set the ball rolling over requesting Beds Police name a date for a gathering.

Councillor Dodwell is hoping a session with the force and residents will be organised soon, after she received a surge in emails from people worried about the policing situation in Leighton Buzzard, and hopes to start an open discussion with the force, encouraging people not to take the law into their own hands.

She claimed: “We have had a lot of problems with youths in the town on bikes, causing anti-social behaviour in the centre and in some of the estates.

“There has been public discussion on social media and I have received emails about the situation as well.

“There has been car crime on the southern estates - Roman Gate and Sandhills - with people trying car doors and even house doors.

“Residents are completely concerned; we have got this problem and we are not getting the response we need.

“There’s no community patrols after ten o’clock at night in the town. The police will only come if they feel the threat is significant enough and they haven’t got the capacity to carry out patrols; perhaps if they did they may catch these people - for example, I believe Sandhills estate residents think it’s the same gang.

“I hope a public meeting will give people the chance to actually talk with the officers and put their points of view across, while it will give the officers the opportunity to gather evidence and encourage communication from both sides.

“I have spoken to the town council and we will take it forward from that road to start with. I will approach the police to get somebody to come to the meeting – hopefully it will be held fairly soon.”

Posting on social media on Sunday, Cllr Dodwell had said she was saddened to read posts “listing a catalogue of break-ins and anti-social behaviour across the town in the past 24 hours”.

Comments included claims that a man who was mugged and assaulted just over a fortnight ago who is still waiting for detectives to come round and take a statement.

Other allegations included police not being interested in a lady’s shed being broken into, while another man claimed: “I really can’t understand how the majority of LB is held hostage by 13-15 yr olds.”

Cllr Dodwell argued: “We are a growing population up above 40,000. Not too many years ago we also had a police station in Linslade but now we have a small community hub. I don’t really feel we are being policed appropriately for a town the size that we are.

“I can understand people’s frustration with the issue. We are completely under-resourced compared to forces such as Thames Valley Police.

“If the public are concerned I have been urging them to contact the Bedfordshire Police online or by calling 101 to allow the officers to try and gather as much evidence as they can. I would also urge people not to take the law into their own hands.

“I will approach the police to get somebody to come to the meeting.”

At last Monday’s town council police liaison committee, members had also asked that police take action after businesses had expressed “understandable concern” about the behaviour of youths in the town and burglaries.

Cllr Dodwell also tweeted: “I have raised the policing of LB with the Chief Constable. The Local Policing Team are working incredibly hard but are faced with lack of resource.”

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway has defended the policing arrangements for Leighton Buzzard after criticism from Cllr Dodwell.

In a letter to the paper earlier this month, Cllr Dodwell described the policing hub in the fire station as a “token gesture” and highlighted the fact it sometimes takes the emergency response team 15 minutes to drive from Dunstable to Leighton Buzzard.

Cllr Dodwell wrote: “Promises have been made over recent years to address the lack of policing in Leighton Linslade, but the evidence suggests little has really changed.

“There is still no police presence in the town after 10pm, the same ‘local’ policing team covers an area that stretches from Linslade to Barton-le-Clay, and the number one issue that residents raise whenever I knock on doors is the lack of visible policing.”

In her response, Mrs Holloway claimed Cllr Dodwell was quoting just one resident and stated: “I have delivered precisely what I promised Leighton Buzzard in terms of a Community Policing team and, as pledged, moved them from the old police station which was set at a distance from the main pubbing, clubbing and market area of the town, and moved them into the Community Fire Station, just off the High Street and market area.

“Cllr Dodwell is aware that a matrix of community policing deployments, including the Leighton Buzzard hub, was shared with the town and other councils and is being delivered.

“Furthermore, I am recruiting between 110 and 130 officers each year for the next two years to lift the frontline by another 10% (over four years) on top of almost 10% delivered so far since I came into this job in May 2016.”

The PCC added that town council should be asked whether they wrote to Policing Minister, Nick Hurd, in advance of the December 2017 Policing Settlement.

Bedfordshire Police Chief Superintendent, David Boyle, said: “We’re aware of residents’ concerns around crime and anti-social behaviour in Leighton Buzzard and are committed to working with partners to tackle any issues in the town.

“We have a dedicated community policing team in Leighton Buzzard and Inspector Craig Gurr attended a public meeting last week to speak directly to residents about their concerns. Further to this, assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire is visiting a number of residents this week to see what further action needs to be taken.

“Our officers will continue to engage with Leighton Buzzard communities on a daily basis and are happy to attend meetings to reassure residents of the work being carried out, and to show how seriously we take their concerns.”

> Have you suffered or witnessed crime or anti-social behaviour in recent weeks/months? Did you report it and what was the response? Send details of incidents to news@lbobserver.co.uk and we will aim to publish a list.