A month after police moved into the fire station, the LBO met with Chief Inspector Hob Hoque and Inspector Craig Gurr to put forward your questions about policing in Leighton Buzzard.
>What does the neighbourhood policing team actually do? Neighbourhood patrols and community policing is the responsibility of the team at this hub.
We’ve got eight police officers and three PCSOs split over shift patterns to give as much coverage as possible. Each officer has their own area and specialities, for example, patrolling the town centre or dealing with issues seen on market day.
Patrols are target-led. Activities include reassurance visits to victims after crimes, but the expectation is any downtime will be spent on patrol in various hotspots, such as the town centre, Sandhills, and recently, Mentmore Park.
>Are you tackling anti-social behaviour from youths?
We have community priority meetings with the Town Council. They have set anti-social behaviour from kids on bikes as a priority for us. One of our PCSOs Rachel Carne has taken ownership of this particular problem. She’s made a lot of progress with kids, engaging with them, security-marking their bikes, and trying to get them on bikability courses.
For the more persistent nuisance cyclists, we’re starting to go down the Unacceptable Behaviour Contract route.
>Will the enquiry office reopen?
It’s not been ruled out, but at the moment we’re using a lot of technology online. I do understand the public’s perception around confidence in policing, however a survey revealed when the Leighton Buzzard enquiry office was open - on average just seven people a day used to attend and most of those were people asking for directions.
>What are you doing about crime from the traveller community?
We’ve got a dedicated rural crime unit which is led by Chief Inspector Mark Farrant. They run an operation which is not specifically aimed at travellers, however the travelling community does figure quite largely into it. It runs on a regular basis and is there to deal with incidents of rural crime.
>What successes have you had?
Dealing with street drinking has been a positive step, and we’ve engaged with the homeless and the Black Horse shelter to help provide solutions. Street Meets have also got off to a great start [officers attend hotspot areas for two hours and allow the public to raise concerns].
>Do we have a better police presence or merely a reshuffling of the pack?
I know you’ve got a better presence in Leighton Buzzard. If for example, you were to compare it to other Bedfordshire towns such as Houghton Regis and Dunstable, you’ve actually got more resources in Leighton Buzzard with eight officers and three PCSOs.
>How are you tackling shoplifting?
Retail has been a problem in the town, there was a surge in shoplifting. However, we’re using the Shopwatch scheme and getting all of the participants radio-linked. Beds Police have contributed £50 per radio. I know one PCSO has also prepared an operation for Halloween, because we’ll see a surge across the county.
>Are your response teams effective?
If something is happening and our neighbourhood response can’t attend [as we’re speaking, two officers have left to attend a fatal traffic collision outside town], the public must understand there are times they have to deal with those emergencies. We can never predict the demand. There’s always a response function available and we provide that 24/7. We have only got a small amount of resources to service 640,000 people across the county. I don’t think Leighton Buzzard gets a disservice.
>What about the businessman threatened with a metal bar who called 999 and officers failed to attend?
What happened to that gentleman is unacceptable and I can only apologise he didn’t get that right level of service.
It’s a large town and it’s growing, but looking at the infrastructure for young people - what is there for them to do? This is around a bigger, long-term solution about what we do with youth service and young people.
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