Ministers axe pioneering police scheme

A groundbreaking service that lets police get in touch directly with the public is being stopped to save money.And Suffolk Police is furious that it will no longer be able to send text messages, e-mails or voicemail messages to people who have signed up to the scheme.

A groundbreaking service that lets police get in touch directly with the public is being stopped to save money.

And Suffolk Police is furious that it will no longer be able to send text messages, e-mails or voicemail messages to people who have signed up to the scheme. Nor will members of the public be able to report crimes through the force's website.

The technology that supports both services, called the Police Portal, is being scrapped by the National Policing Improvement Agency. The force was only given three days' notice that the scheme was coming to an end.

Nearly 25,000 people across Suffolk had signed up to the free Police Direct service, which was piloted in west Suffolk in 2005.

Subscribers get messages such as warnings of bogus callers in the area or appeals for information about crimes. And it was used to catch Christopher Coulthard, last year sentenced to five years in prison for burgling hundreds of churches, when a builder in Santon Downham, near Brandon, saw that Coulthard's van matched a description sent out by officers and rang police.

But after today Police Direct will be suspended - although there are hopes that it will return in the summer.

Most Read

Chief constable Alastair McWhirter said: “We are extremely disappointed that this innovative and popular service is being suspended, but it is for reasons beyond our control.

“We are constantly looking at ways of improving our service to local people, which is why we chose to be the first force in the country to trial this new system.

“It is disappointing that we received official notification of this decision just three days before it is turned off - and no information about how long it might be suspended for.

“However, I would like to reassure people that we will be working to find a solution so that we can relaunch the service in the future.”

A spokesman for the Police Information Technology Organisation, which is being replaced by the National Policing Improvement Agency from tomorrow, said: “There was no funding available to continue with the present system while a new service is being developed.

Although Suffolk Police only received official notification of the decision this week, there was an ongoing discussion for several months which they were involved in.

“The final decision was made last week.”

She said that a new system was being tested and if found satisfactory, was expected to be put in place this summer.