'Lure the police with exaggeration'

RICHARD PARR Victims of crime have been urged to “exaggerate” their calls for police help in order to receive the swiftest possible response. The startling advice came from a member of Norfolk's own police authority and came after public claims that crime reported in rural areas often met with little action.

RICHARD PARR

Victims of crime have been urged to “exaggerate” their calls for police help in order to receive the swiftest possible response.

The startling advice came from a member of Norfolk's own police authority and came after public claims that crime reported in rural areas often met with little action.

But senior figures within the force distanced themselves from the comments saying such actions could endanger the safety of officers and the public.

However, police authority member John Perry-Warnes, who had claimed during a council meeting that it was necessary to “exaggerate” details of crime incidents to bring a speedier response, refused to back-down. He said: “I do not think my view is unreasonable”.

But he admitted that his police colleagues would “not be very happy” with his view.

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Stephen Bett, chairman of the police authority, told the EDP: “The police authority would certainly not advocate such action. It could lead to a 'crying wolf' situation and, in prioritising emergency calls, a more important incident could be put behind something people were exaggerating over.”

Mr Bett said the comments were Mr Perry-Warnes' personal opinion and the authority would certainly not endorse such a view.

Simon Morgan, a spokesman for Norfolk police, added: “We grade calls depending on urgency, risk and need. This ranges from emergency responses to non-attendance because the matter has been resolved over the phone.

“It is vitally important that we receive accurate information from the public to allow us to give the appropriate grade.

“The consequences of not doing so are that our finite resources could be used inappropriately and in the worst case scenario there could be implications for public and officer safety.”

Mr Perry-Warnes, a Norfolk county and North Norfolk district councillor, who has been a police authority member for several years, made the comments during a Wells Town Council meeting where he had been invited to talk about general policing issues in the town.

Councillors told him they had become angry and frustrated over what they saw as a lack of police presence in the town and their failure to respond.

During his talk to the councillors and a number of members of the public, Mr Perry-Warnes was told repeatedly that calls to police from Wells to report incidents and request their attendance had met with little response.

Sgt Steve Richardson, whose area covers Wells, criticised the comment made by Mr Perry-Warnes and stressed that advising people to mislead the police could be potentially dangerous.

He said members of the public calling the police are asked to give factual and accurate information in calls for police assistance so that the incidents can be prioritised.

After the meeting, Wells Town Council chairman Gail Robbins said she was amazed at what Mr Perry-Warnes had said.

“I think it is an appalling indictment of the police for Mr Perry-Warnes to make such a comment,” she said.

Town councillor Joe Ellison said he believed that Wells was given an “atrocious” service by the police.

“I think the time has come for some real action to be taken. I think we need an open meeting with senior police representatives so that the public can meet them face-to-face and ask questions. But, of course, the police won't agree to that,” he said.