‘Leighton Buzzard and Linslade would probably be better off policed by Thames Valley’

Cllr Amanda Dodwell
Cllr Amanda Dodwell

Leighton Buzzard and Linslade would probably be better off in the Thames Valley policing area in the fight against crime, it’s been claimed.

“We pay a lot in council tax and we want to make sure we get our policing,” said Conservative Leighton Buzzard South Central Bedfordshire councillor Amanda Dodwell at a public meeting in the town.

PCC Kathryn Holloway

PCC Kathryn Holloway

“As it stands now we would probably get better policing in Thames Valley because there is a higher funding rate there.

“If we were a small village or town there, we would do better,” she told last night’s (Thursday 30th) meeting called by the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway.

Councillor Dodwell, who also serves on the town council, was quick to point out “how good the local community policing team is and what a fantastic job they do for the local area”.

But she asked the police panel: “When 40 per cent of police funding is spent in Luton, how do we ensure proper attention is given to rural areas and our market towns, such as Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Houghton Regis?

Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth

Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth

“Over the last five years crime in Leighton Buzzard has gone up, and crime in Houghton Regis and Dunstable is now higher than it is Luton,” she added.

“And you had a very angry meeting there last week, so I am asking on behalf of Central Bedfordshire residents are we really getting our fair share of resources?”

Bedfordshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth replied: “Crime five years ago in Leighton Buzzard averaged about four crimes per day.

“Three years ago it averaged about six crimes a day, one year ago it was six a day. Now it’s currently about seven crimes per day,” he said.

“There is a balance for us where we have to place our operational asset against the threat risk we’re presented with.

“Yes, 40 per cent of our policing asset is in Luton, which goes for the fact that I’ve had 14 firearm discharges there, as well as 11 serious crimes and threatened criminality.

“That’s more than per head of population in London. There are people coming to serious harm on a daily basis there.

“That’s absolutely not to say we neglect the needs of Leighton Buzzard.

“We are trying to and we are populating the Leighton Buzzard community teams with more officers than it has ever had.

“And there’s the rural team which is the biggest in eastern England,” he added.

“We continue to make sure we have a community response from all the relevant areas, and that’s augmented by specialist patrols as well.

“I know it’s not as much as you would like. It’s not as much as I would like to give you.

“I have to make difficult choices which are based on the threat risk we face on a daily basis.”

Residents questioned what is considered to be an offence if there are only six or seven crimes a day in the town.

Local concerns about policing finishing in the locality towards the end of the evening were addressed by the police and crime commissioner.

“There’s a perception in this town that community policing ends at 10pm,” she said, which provoked a short burst of heckling suggesting that’s what residents had been told at a previous meeting.

“If I tell you the team that’s all around me have been working until 3am recently on targeted activity around thefts from vans,” she told the meeting at the Mentmore Road Pavilion.

“And you have a response (team) that starts at 10pm, it is absolutely incorrect to believe that policing finishes at 10pm in this town.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I have come here because I am not the slightest bit scared to look into the whites of the eyes of people.

“I could come here and I could promise you the earth, and I would be lying,” she said.

“The fact is that we have one of the lowest budgets in policing and one of the most overstretched front lines.

“But those of you who read the Sunday Telegraph last week will see policing as a whole is retreating away from communities.

“And Bedfordshire Police, with me as PCC, is walking towards them as fast as we can,” she added.

“That’s why you have a community hub, that is the reality, and it’s bucking the trend.”

> Police tell Leighton Buzzard crime meeting ‘We are not afraid of travellers’. Click here

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