David Shaw, the chief constable of West Mercia police has announced that he is reviewing policing operations in North Herefordshire and South Shropshire, including Ludlow. This review is very welcome.
Since the summer of 2013, policing for Ludlow has been provided from Leominster police station, with our police station only used as a base when officers are working in the town. The front counter service closed last autumn. I have never been convinced that we would get such a good service and response times if police officers are based twelve miles away.
Yesterday, David Shaw told a meeting of Shropshire Council he was currently looking at how policing works in our area.
Two and a half years ago, we had to review services. We made a move which particular affected South Shropshire in a way by moving one of our bases to Leominster which covers North Herefordshire and the south part of your county. We will revisit that. We may not have got that completely right.
In response, I welcomed the move.
David, I welcome the fact that you are looking at the relationship between North Herefordshire and South Shropshire policing again. In Ludlow we have got a really good Safer Neighbourhood Team. We get on superbly well on a day-to-day basis, but we also get the impression they are not organised in the most efficient way of serving the needs of a quite lively community in Ludlow and Clee. This is an issue we are looking out in the town anyway. On October 22, we have a Local Joint Committee and the theme of that meeting is community safety, a very broad theme. Not just crime, but also street lights and things like trip hazards on the pavements. So it is a very broad theme. We are doing a consultation in the next couple of months to find out what does concern people – we know that the fear of crime is higher than the reality of crime – and how to make people feel safe. So I wonder, if as part of your review of policy, North Herefordshire and South Shropshire, if we might incorporate that meeting. [Police and Crime Commissioner] Bill Longmore has already been invited and it would be an extensive opportunity to discuss with people what they think about policy policing in the area.
David Shaw said he very much welcomed the police being involved in the LJC meeting. He added:
Can I just reassure colleagues in the south of the county that a review is sometimes a subterfuge for cutting back and degrading. I can absolutely assure you it is not that. We are just asking making sure we have got it as good as it could be.
West Mercia police have already reinstated police bases in Malvern and Ross-on-Wye, which were previously served out of Ledbury. In his Annual Report, Police and Crime Commissioner Bill Longmore says of the reinstatement:
The resulting changes have not altered how many local officers there are but means they operate out of local bases again, ensuring more of a local presence and a better service for local residents and businesses. I know these changes have been well received in local communities and given added
confidence to people living in these areas.
David Shaw told the meeting:
We are starting to see significant increases in some forms of violent crime in some areas and in sexual offences. There is no doubt there is a post-Saville effect with a considerable number of historical cases have come forward. There is some increase in business crime and shop theft – not alarming but it is very real. Antisocial behaviour, vehicle crime and theft from people is certainly going down. We have a very effective speed and road safety team, and we want to develop Community Speedwatch where possible.
He said that the police can still deliver despite cutbacks but it requires “a fundamental rethink about what services we offer. I have no doubt that policy in five years’ time will look fundamentally different from how it looks now.”
Councillor Heather Kidd said speeding was ruining people’s lives in villages and parents are scared to walk children to school. She said villagers were told they could run Community Speedwatch or deploy a camera van but not both. Councillor Roger Evans said four areas of Community Speedwatch are planned in his division. He has a list of volunteers, all waiting, desperate to go but there appears to be delays in the system and still no date for starting and no safety audit complete. Other councillors raised similar concerns.
David Shaw replied that the police response described was not good enough. He said that Community Speedwatch and speed cameras should be mixed and matched. He will insure the problems are dealt with.
The meeting also discussed youth crime and criminals using drones.