On partrol with the Response Team
On Thursday 18 May I was due in Market Harborough to meet with local residents and businesses as well as to spend some time with the police in the area.
Before going I posted about the trip on Facebook and asked if anyone who lives or works in the area had any concerns. Quite a few came in, so the first order of business was to take these issues up with Inspector Liz Perry, the local Neighbourhood Policing Area Commander.
We settled down in her office to go through the list.
In Broughton Astley there is a perceived speeding problem in Main Street and Station Road. Inspector Perry was aware of this and had already arranged for traffic surveys to take place. As a result, new mobile speed camera sites have been identified.
Residents in Husbands Bosworth had also reported speeding, mainly on the A4304 west of the village. Again, this is the site for a proactive mobile speed camera where police often monitor speeds and impose speeding fines when appropriate.
Finally, speeding was reported on the B581 near Dunton Bassett. And once again the police were already aware and have a mobile speed camera site there.
That led on to a discussion about the Speedwatch organisation. Speedwatch is a Leicestershire County Council scheme, supported by the road safety partnership. The work they do is driven by public demand and largely carried out by volunteers. After a significant COVID delay, the organisation have now run a scheme in Kibworth. The road safety partnership will review the results and look at what further schemes can be run within the NPA.
Leicestershire Police is the most important member after the County Council who run the scheme. There are monthly road safety partnership meetings that is Chaired by the Detective Inspector from the Serious Collision investigation Unit where issues such as speeding, road safety, abnormal loads and proactive operations are discussed.
I can’t help feeling that something more needs to be done, so I’ll be looking into what I can achieve. Watch this space!
Several residents of Lutterworth have asked about the current status regarding the Police Station there. The station was closed down some years ago, but with the growing population of the town due to new housing developments there is a desire for a new one to be opened. There is currently a police office, part funded by the council, but this is not open to the public because my predecessor decided against it. The longer-term plan is to have a new station, but that depends on money obtained from the property developers and may take anything up to ten years. I will have to look into seeing if some sort of interim measure can be achieved.
Associated with this is the concern that crime in Lutterworth may have gone up since the old station was closed. The crime figures have gone up, but it is not entirely clear what has caused this. The increase is more or less in line with the rise in population, for instance.
A resident of Market Harborough asked what is being done about casual pot smoking in the town centre? Inspector Perry looked surprised. She has not received any reports of such activity, but assures me that she will take prompt action if any reports come in. Anti-social behaviour in the town is dramatically down on three years ago due to proactive work by the police and Community Safety Partnership.
Several residents asked if the increase in police numbers nationally had fed through locally. Inspector Perry assured me that it had. Since 2020 the numbers have increased and there are currently 130 staff that work within the Market Harborough Policing Area. That is a mix of PCSOs, Neighbourhood Officers, Response Officers, a proactive team, but it excludes CID Detectives who also work from our station.
A sheep farmer had asked me if the police log instances of dog attacks on livestock. Apparently, there is not a specific crime reference for this, so figures are not available. However, Inspector Perry said that there had been a noticeable rise in such incidents during the covid lockdowns as more people walked their dogs in rural areas. However, the new Rural Policing Team - and in particular the rural police officer specifically allocated to the Harborough area – had been dealing with the issue.
At this point there was a clatter of noise in the corridor outside.
“Where are you off to?” called Inspector Perry. A police officer stuck her head round the door “Lutterworth,” she said. “Sighting of that suspect we’re after.”
“Fancy taking our PCC to show him what you do?” the Inspector asked.
The police officer grinned. “Why not?”
She turned out to be PC Penfold, and we met Sergeant Harrison as we raced out to the car.
I was bundled into the back seat and told firmly to put on my seat belt. Then we were off. As soon as we were outside the gates the blue lights and siren went on and the speed went up. What followed would have been the scariest car ride I’d ever had if I had not already witnessed the intensive training that officers go through before they are allowed out on emergency runs. Even so, the speeds we reached were daunting.
PC Penfold was constantly on the radio getting updates. The suspect had been seen by somebody who knew him. So, we had a photo the man we were after as well as a description of what he was wearing. As we entered Lutterworth the sirens and lights went off and our speed dropped. Apparently, there were two other cars driving slowly around and other officers on foot looking for our man.
But we had barely arrived when PC Penfold got another emergency call and we were again off at high speed. “A man is walking down a street in Wigston covered in blood and waving a large knife,” she told me. It was easy to spot the man when we got there. We got out the car and within moments the man was handcuffed. While other officers checked the area, we drove him to be booked in at custody where he would be questioned once he had sobered up.
Then it was back to Harborough to pick up my car and head off to a meeting with the local council and another with several retail businesses. All in all, a busy day in Market Harborough.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
Posted on Wednesday 24th May 2023