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Rural policing 'fails in basic aims'

PUBLISHED: 15:47 14 January 2009 | UPDATED: 09:20 13 July 2010

A top Norfolk police officer has admitted the force's grass-roots policing teams needed to be improved after a report revealed they were failing to fulfil their basic aims.

A top Norfolk police officer has admitted the force's grass-roots policing teams needed to be improved after a report revealed they were failing to fulfil their basic aims.

His comments were in response to a survey, commissioned by the police authority, which revealed that rural communities did not know how to get hold of their Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) and did not feel they were able to influence policing priorities.

The first teams were set up in 2006 and aimed to provide more “bobbies on the beat” to restore high-visibility police patrols and give local people a chance to highlight the issues which were most important to them.

There are now 52 SNTs in the county, including nine in north Norfolk, however last night, Norfolk police were unable to confirm how much money was spent on the teams and how many officers, PCSOs, special constables and other support

workers were involved with them.

The authority's report, carried out by the Norfolk Rural Community Council, revealed a considerable gap between the teams' attempts to engage with the community and how well they were actually doing it.

The council contacted people in six rural SNT areas - including Holt and Stalham - and the results were put before the authority's citizen focus committee meeting on Monday.

Worryingly for police, only about half of respondents had heard of the teams, 82pc did not know how to contact their SNT officers and 83pc did not feel able to influence policing priorities - the key reason the teams were set up.

In addition, the survey revealed a significant mismatch between what concerned the public most and the issues identified as priorities for the teams - 48pc of respondents said speeding was a key problem but only 6pc of SNT priorities relate to that.

At the meeting, Kevin Wilkins, assistant chief constable for Norfolk, told the committee he was concerned by the results but saw them as an opportunity to make improvements.

He said: “There are some things here I thought were more embedded and working better than the report has identified. Some of the things that have emerged are disappointing.”

Mr Wilkins said one of the key lessons to be learned from the report was the need to improve communication between the SNTs and the communities they serve.

The committee was told the police were already working on ways to raise awareness of the teams' work.

Leaflets have been sent out telling households who their teams were and a “contact us” campaign is due to begin next month.

At the moment, one of the main ways people can influence their SNTs' policing priorities is through safer neighbourhood action panel meetings but the authority's report said these were failing and alternative methods - like using parish newsletters and introducing SNT “postboxes” - were needed.

The citizen focus committee agreed that new ways to strengthen their links with the public needed to be considered as part of an overall review of the authority's community engagement strategy.

People in north Norfolk are being given a chance to meet their Safer Neighbour Teams at a number of surgeries over the next few months.

In Wroxham, meetings will be held at the library on Friday, January 23 between 3pm and 5pm, Monday, February 23 from 11am to 1pm and Thursday, March 19 between 11am and 1pm.

At Aylsham Library, surgeries will take place on Tuesday from 11am until 1pm, Monday, February 16 between 3pm and 5pm, and Friday, March 27 from 11am to 1pm.

For more information about the teams and forthcoming meetings visit www.safernnorfolk.co.uk


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