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Mayors of Dereham and Fakenham express concerns that police overhaul could distance officers from the community

PUBLISHED: 06:44 26 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:44 26 October 2017

Dereham mayor Hilary Bushell. Picture: DEREHAM TOWN COUNCIL

Dereham mayor Hilary Bushell. Picture: DEREHAM TOWN COUNCIL

Archant

The Mayors of Fakenham and Dereham have expressed concerns over proposals to overhaul policing across the county, which they say could lead to officers being detached from the communities they serve.

Fakenham town mayor George Acheson. Picture: Ian Burt Fakenham town mayor George Acheson. Picture: Ian Burt

A wide range of changes were announced last week by Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey in one of the biggest reviews of policing in the force’s history.

Under the proposals, Dereham and Fakenham will be among seven police stations in the county to close their public enquiry offices when the changes come into effect in April 2018.

Norfolk will also be the first force in the country to completely eliminate the role of Police Community Support Officer (PCSO).

Hilary Bushell, Mayor of Dereham, said: “I am concerned that the loss of PCSOs would mean that criminal damage and antisocial behaviour would be taken less seriously.

Dereham Police Station. Picture Archant archive Dereham Police Station. Picture Archant archive

“I have been reassured by the police that criminal damage and anti-social behaviour would not be ignored and would be prioritised alongside other work. I feel that the worst outcome would be if members of the public stop reporting low level crime, because they think the police are no longer interested.

“I would urge the public to report all criminal activity and antisocial behaviour so that the police have a realistic understanding of what is happening locally.”

She added that she was disappointed that members of the public in Dereham will only be able to meet with police by appointment after the front desk closures, while in Norwich, Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth advance appointments will not be needed.

Fakenham Mayor George Acheson called the changes a “further erosion of local policing” and said that the closure of the enquiry office risks distancing officers from the community.

Fakenham Police Station. Picture: Ian Burt Fakenham Police Station. Picture: Ian Burt

The police say want to ensure the changes do not have a major impact. Chief Inspector and Breckland Commander, Paul Wheatley, said neighbourhood policing will remain a top priority.

“I want to reassure people we are not moving away from low level antisocial behaviour, which causes so much tension in communities,” he said. “We will lose 15 PCSOs but as a district we will gain 14 PCs and four sergeants. We will ensure we have community police officers in each town and a neighbourhood policing team.”

Inspector Edward Brown, policing commander at Fakenham, said he is also looking at ways to ensure police remain accessible to the community.

“Visibility of our officers is a key part of the police and crime plan and part of my role is to ensure that the officers we do have are deployed effectively to make their presence felt positively within the community to reduce the fear of crime,” he said.

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