Police chief's funding fears

Norfolk's Chief Constable fired a parting shot yesterday at the lack of funding for neighbourhood policing and her disappointment at the failure of police mergers.

Norfolk's Chief Constable fired a parting shot yesterday at the lack of funding for neighbourhood policing and her disappointment at the failure of police mergers.

Carole Howlett, who leaves the job this week, said one of the "biggest frustrations" was the ill-fated merger of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire forces, which she said would have freed up cash for front-line policing.

And while Norfolk had hit all of its targets for crime reduction in 2006, the strain of a shortfall in Home Office funding for neighbourhood patrols would prove the "biggest challenge" for her successor, Ian McPherson.

"I'm confident I am leaving the force in a strong position," she said.

"I've been able to build on the successes of my predecessor, Andy Hayman, in driving down violent crime and we continue to drive down burglary and motor vehicle crime.

"But we've done all this without an increase in resources and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain what we do."

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Of the proposed three forces merger, she said the failure of the scheme in July was one of the "biggest frustrations" of her 22 months at the helm. I was in favour of the merger because it would have given us flexibility, more resources and the capital to maintain that and it gave us the opportunity to make savings."

She said a lack of cash could hamper the countywide deployment of safer neighbourhood teams, which combine officers with police community support officers (PCSOs) to patrol towns in a return to "bobbies on the beat" style policing.

As reported last month, the force will only be able to recruit around 190 civilian officers - around 100 fewer than expected - after the Home Office cut its promised funding for the posts by a third. Teams are already at work around Yarmouth and parts of north Norfolk, but plans to extend their use across the county hang in the balance.

"Ian McPherson would like to continue to build on the successes in violent crime and he is as keen as I am to make sure that we roll out our safer neighbourhood police teams," said Mrs Howlett.

She added that she was particularly proud about the "significant" reduction in violent crime this year, with 1449 fewer offences than last year.

"We've also continued to put pressure on those people who think they can come to our county to deal in drugs," she said.

"We've had some real successes with prosecutions and on top of that we've started to roll out our safer neighbourhood teams, and we've raised detection on all types of crime."

The number of victims of burglary halved compared with three years ago, there were 173 fewer vehicle crimes compared with last year and in terms of targets, Norfolk police had done "really well across the board" and is well within its range - 53 below for burglary, 93 under for vehicle crime and 244 under for violent crime.

Mrs Howlett took over as acting chief for what was meant to be a six-month secondment when Mr Hayman made an early departure to the Metropolitan Police in London, but ended up staying for just under two years.

"I will take back so many fond and happy memories," said Mrs Howlett who will move back to Kent.

Mr McPherson, formerly deputy chief constable at North Yorkshire Police, will take up the £119,352 post on Tuesday.

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