Extra contributions from council taxpayers help to double officer numbers on rural crime beat for Atherstone and beyond

  Posted: 27.05.20 at 16:18 by Nick Hudson

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A MINI task force fighting rural crime across Atherstone and North Warwickshire is set to double in size thanks to the tiniest of increases in police-directed funding from local council taxpayers.

The addition of four more officers is the second bonus from the precept rise orchestrated by Warwickshire police and crime commissioner Philip Seccombe.

The extra cash has also helped form the Local Policing Patrol Support Team which has drastically reduced “priority” crime in taking a ‘high-risk’ list of offenders off the streets of the borough.

Most Atherstone and district residents will be paying around £2,000 council tax this year which includes a £9.99 rise for the services provided on behalf of the PCC – up from £227.98 to £237.97 a year – which is the equivalent of just 19p a week.

Those extra few pennies a week have been a game changer for the police with an “increase in officer numbers as a result of rises in local council tax”, added Chief Superintendent Ben Smith.

The Rural Crime Team, currently with a sergeant and four police constables, will double to eight PCs split between Atherstone, Rugby and Stratford – enabling it to increase its presence in the whole county.

The extended team will be up and running by the end of next month.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Seccombe said: “When asking the public for increased contributions for policing through their council tax over the past two years, I promised to make sure that the force had the resources it needed to give extra focus to the issues that matter most to communities.

“I thank residents for their support in giving that extra funding and want to make sure they know how it is being used effectively.

“Vehicle crime, rural crime and neighbourhood policing in our town centres are among the topics I get most feedback from the public on, so I am pleased to see these will all now be getting enhanced focus.

“I am sure this is something communities will also welcome.

“Overall, it has been a record-breaking year for recruitment, meaning Warwickshire Police is now in a strong position, with more than 1,000 officers for the first time in a decade or more.

“Alongside these newly expanded teams, there are also many more officers now in patrol policing helping to respond to the public’s calls to 999 and 101 and this is beginning to make a real difference in delivering on my ambition to create a safer, more secure Warwickshire.”

The announcement comes part of a record-breaking year for officer recruitment for the force –bringing in more than 200 additional officers to the county.

By the end of March it had reached a total of 1,043 officers – the highest number seen since 2009 and meaning the commissioner’s ambition of topping the 1,000 mark during his term of office was achieved ahead of time.

The last few months have brought a plethora of ‘good news’ on the local policing front.

Nub News reported in March that Atherstone can push ahead in policing terms thanks to a new working collaboration between Britain’s smallest and largest regional forces.

Assurances for the town and district were made as the Warwickshire force engaged in an “exciting working partnership” with neighbours West Midlands Police.

England’s number one regional police force has stepped in as a peacemaker after “open warfare” broke out between alliance partners West Mercia and Warwickshire when their relationship fell apart in October 2018.

Warwickshire Police Federation chairman Simon Page told Nub News: “This is putting Atherstone on the front foot in terms of technology – leading policing forward for years to come.”

Meanwhile, a new survey has shown that more than eight in 10 people locally have welcomed the Warwickshire force’s approach to policing the lockdown restrictions.

Over the last month Warwickshire Police has carried out a poll to help it understand the public’s views on how it has been carrying out its work during the pandemic.

Each of those last four weeks some 100 people in the county were contacted and asked for their views.

A total of 83 per cent of recipients said they believed officers were doing a ‘good job’ during the crisis, and seven in 10 said they fully supported the force’s approach. The way the force communicates with people via social media channels was also praised by 68 per cent of respondents.

People contacted for the survey said they have been pleased to see extra patrols in their neighbourhoods, praised officers for helping some of society’s most vulnerable and said they believed the force was taking a ‘fair’ approach in keeping people safe during lockdown.

Chief Constable Martin Jelley said: “Community feedback is always important and we are pleased to hear that the majority of people are happy with the way we are engaging with them during this difficult time.

A separate survey was done nationally, and although the questions were not exactly the same, the findings are striking in that at the beginning of April only 42 per cent of people said they fully supported the approach taken by the police.

The police chief added: “The results of our survey suggest we are getting the balance right.”

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