Earby police ‘will seek to be more visible’

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Police officers will seek to be more visible in Earby to reassure members of the public.

That was the outcome of a special meeting held between Pendle police chiefs and town councillors.

Chief Insp. Jeff Brown and Insp. Phil Davies said the concerns raised by councillors had made them conscious of a lack of visible presence in the town and said they would do what they could to change it.

The extraordinary council meeting was called by councillors who said there was not an adequate level of policing in the town, which was affecting the public’s confidence.

Chief Insp. Brown set the concerns about the closure of Earby’s police shop and the coming results of a review of staffing levels against the necessity for the county’s force to make £42 million of savings by April, 2015.

He said: “We have to look at how best to offer a service with what we have left and realise there is a hard crunch and we are losing people from the front line. The harsh reality is we have less than what we had.”

Insp. Phil Davies, who has been involved with the process of deciding how many officers will be kept in West Craven said the area has been operating with a hybrid policing model for a long time.

“Historically, the way we have policed West Craven has been different from any other area but now we have to go to a common model. The staffing review initially said we should have 1.5 community beat managers, but we think that is too low.

“We don’t know the final results yet but we have taken issues around West Craven all the way to the Assistant Chief Constable, which is the level you have to go to, to make those sorts of decisions. Previously we have had a dedicated Sergeant for West Craven who has been based in Barnoldswick and only in Barnoldswick.

“We are going through a process of change that has been forced upon us and we need to make sure we still deliver an appropriate service to you.”

Councillors said their concerns and frustrations had been building for more than 18 months, especially over issues that seemed not to have been dealt with despite being reported for several years, like speeding cars from New Road down to the cricket club.

Chairman Coun. Chris Tennant said: “There has been a process of building concern over the levels of policing in Earby. Evidence has been coming through to us as councillors and residents that people are not seeing police on the streets. And people think that because they are not seeing the police, that they are not bothered.”

Councillors also spoke about instances they had heard of people not reporting crimes because they “did not think there was a point”.

Coun. Adrian Whitworth said: “I think the police have been very lucky in the fact that Earby is a community-orientated town. We are doing the job in a way, and cutting our own throat. By sorting out our own problems without involving the police, we are making it look like a nice little backwater town when at weekends it isn’t. I am worried that standards will slip if people don’t see a presence.”

Chief Insp. Brown said a lack of police was a perception and that crime figures have consistently dropped. “Anti-social behaviour is now at its lowest levels. Within the last few weeks we have had officers from Burnley and Rossendale operating in Barnoldswick so we also have movement of staff into West Craven. And Barnoldswick has always featured as part of our town centre plans at weekends.

“The police shop closed because it had the lowest footfall in the county, but of course footfall is not a measure of how the public feel.”

But the focus of the meeting was very much on an appeal for officers to make their presence known in the town, and on foot rather than driving through in cars.

Coun. James Jackman said: “The way things are sorted is to get into the heart of the community.

“Kids see what goes on and they know. A police car comes through Earby every three hours and they know where to go.”

Coun. Morris Horsfield said: “Are the people of Earby getting value for money? From the reports I have been getting back they are not. We can choose which supermarket we want to go to but we can’t choose the police service we pay for.

“As councillors, we are paid to be here and if we don’t do our job we will be thrown out. When the police do come it is in cars. We don’t have the police on the ground that people can talk to.”

Going forward from the meeting, there was an agreement that PACT meetings would be held in Earby and just concerning Earby, rather than feeding into the West Craven-wide safety partnership meetings.

Chief Insp. Brown and Insp. Davies also took away details of incidents that councillors said had not been reported or not been dealt with, for them to look into.

Chief Insp. Brown said: “The reality is, Earby is a safe place. When it all settles around the review I am convinced we can still offer a good service to the people of Earby. I am absolutely, fundamentally convinced when we are bedded in and using services properly we will be absolutely fine and it will be a pleasure to see.

“It is also important not to talk the area down. It is a nice place to live and bring a family up. People need to be talking positively about it.”