A crimewave in Leighton Buzzard has prompted a public meeting to address residents’ concerns about the policing of the town.
In recent weeks, Leighton has hit the headlines following a ramraid at Santander, a suspicious package which closed the town centre for a number of hours and the stabbing of a motorist allegedly by a gang of children.
Those incidents, coupled with a spate of thefts from trades’ vehicles and anti-social behaviour, has led Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Kathryn Holloway to arrange the meeting to debate the unrest.
Ms Holloway, who will stand on May 5 against current PCC Olly Martins, says the stabbing is just the latest serious issue when it comes to recent crime in the town.
“I have been inundated with messages from concerned residents who report what amounts to a crimewave in Leighton Buzzard and anti-social behaviour in the surrounding areas,” she said.
The meeting will be held at the Mentmore Pavilion, in Mentmore Road Park, on Thursday, March 17 between 6pm and 8pm.
She said: “As PCC it would be my job to represent the public and their priorities when it comes to policing and how the £100 million budget is spent. A meeting like this is a chance for the people of Leighton Buzzard to make their feelings around policing crystal clear.
“I know those feelings are running very high following the stabbing incident and multiple thefts from vans which are putting the survival of small companies at risk, from my mailbag and inbox.”
Ms Holloway insists the answer is a permanent Community Policing Plan for South West Bedfordshire and investment in Community Policing Hubs, including one in Leighton Buzzard and others in Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Luton.
Her Labour rival, Mr Martins, told the LBO on Friday: “The reason there aren’t enough police in Leighton Buzzard is because there aren’t enough police in Bedfordshire. That’s why my focus is fighting for fairer government police funding, an issue my Tory opponent appears to completely ignore.
“Also, unless the rules have changed, the deployment of officers remains the responsibility of the Chief Constable, not the PCC.”
Mr Martins has been involved in heated discussions about policing with senior Conservative councillors in Leighton-Linslade in recent times.
He pointed out that cuts to Government funding meant the force has just 169 police officers per 100,000 population against an England and Wales average of 232, and 388 in the Metropolitan Police area.
He said 300 more officers would put Bedfordshire on a par with those forces that have similar crime and policing challenges.
In November, plans to close Leighton Buzzard Police Station’s enquiry desk were confirmed – although the police station itself remains open for officers.
Mayor Ray Berry said at the time: “We are the largest town in Bedfordshire after Bedford and Luton, and we are seeing what little policing we did have in this town further diminished.
“Whilst we fully understand the demands that are being placed on Bedfordshire Police by Luton’s unique crime profile and the lack of funding from central government, this is being used as an excuse to leave Leighton-Linslade with just a handful of PCSOs.”