Dereham Police Station to be reinstated as response base
The people of Dereham can expect to see more bobbies on the beat when the town police station is reinstated as one of the main response bases for Breckland.
For more than two years, priority and 999 calls in the area have been answered by officers at the nearest response base in Fakenham – 12 miles away.
A perceived lack of police in Dereham has caused uneasiness despite low crime levels and the ongoing work of the local Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT).
Now, as part of a far-reaching review of the Norfolk force, Dereham Police Station is being put back on the map.
Around 50 PCs, ten sergeants and one inspector will be based in the town from January next year and building work is already under way to prepare the station, in Commercial Road, for the influx of extra staff.
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Chief Inspector Paul Durham, Breckland's top police officer, argued the case for reinstating Dereham as a response base when he addressed the review panel at the end of last year.
The bolstered station will be a hybrid, bringing together response officers and PCSOs to tackle a full range of issues in-house, from anti-social behaviour to 999 emergencies.
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'For the last two-and-a-half years we have had an SNT based here, but our response function has come from Fakenham,' he said. 'While there are some merits in that model – year-on-year we have seen crime reduction – there were some issues in terms of the perceived lack of coverage in Dereham.
'With a town the size of Dereham, I can fully understand why people want a response base here. The whole thing feels right, it feels better, and it makes far more sense to me, personally, to have a team based here.
'When you take into account the cutbacks and the economic climate, it certainly makes sense to go down this road. I think the people of Dereham and Breckland will feel the benefits.'
Chief Insp Durham, who is based in Thetford, said the previous policing of Friday and Saturday nights had been 'a bit hit and miss,' but extra officers would soon be made available.
There will also be extra police patrols in Dereham, but surrounding villages are most likely to notice improvements under the new arrangement, he said.
'We have always had a very strong SNT here, but I think where the previous model lacked a little bit was getting coverage out to outlying locations,' Chief Insp Durham said.
'Dereham is an incredibly safe place to live and work and we do get low levels of crime. The biggest challenge for Dereham is getting the service out to rural areas. They don't suffer high levels of crime but they can feel particularly vulnerable sometimes.
'People in Dereham will see more police officers and we are going to be closer to hand. Dereham is more than suitable for foot beats and I'm a real advocate of them.'
Some of the officers transferred to Fakenham during the previous re-structuring will now return to Dereham, but this does not mean reduced response levels there, Chief Insp Durham said.
Norfolk as a whole faces a reduction in the number of police officers over the next few years as a result of the government's comprehensive spending review.
'There are going to be reductions in the number of police officers, but primarily through natural wastage,' he added. 'We are not going to have same numbers we had two years or even 18 months ago. The whole reason we have changed things is so that the public will not lose any service.'