Rural areas are still a priority for police, says senior officer

Officers were dispatched to rural shops to prevent pre-Christmas crime
Officers were dispatched to rural shops to prevent pre-Christmas crime

Rural communities in Chorley and South Ribble are not being sidelined by the police, according to a senior Lancashire officer.

Temporary Chief Inspector Gary Crowe was responding to questions from local councillors about changes to community policing across the county.

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Last year, Lancashire Constabulary formally reassigned some community beat officers to an emergency response role - because of the regularity with which they were being diverted from their normal duties.

But Temp Ch Insp Crowe revealed that the changes had actually resulted in an increase in the total number of officers within the two districts under his command.

“We lost six officers from the community beat, but gained ten new emergency response officers - so we actually have more than we did, albeit in different roles.

“We had to restructure to reflect to reflect the reality that there was a constant migration out of community policing and onto the frontline,” he said.

However, one parish councillor was worried that any move away from community-based work by the force would hit rural areas hardest.

“All [parish areas] benefit from community policing - and although we might not have the problems of the urban core, it is still needed,” Wheelton parish councillor Terry Dickenson told the meeting.

“Rural areas are a good training ground for special constables, but we never see any,” he added.

But the South Division officer told the meeting that the rural corners of his patch were actually the “number one priority” in the run up to Christmas, in order to reduce the risk of cross-border crime gangs targeting small shops.

“Police and community support officers and specials were tasked to these areas to give a visible presence and hopefully deter criminals who were monitoring [the premises],” Temp Ch Insp Crowe said.

“I wouldn’t want you to read into the [community policing] restructure that we have taken our eye off the parishes.”

Committee member and Buckshaw county councillor Aidy Riggott suggested residents should be made more aware of how many non-emergency crimes can be reported online.

And Temp Ch Insp Crowe admitted that the force was under pressure.

“We are a social service of last resort. I am by no means suggesting that we are the only service to see a change in demand because of cuts elsewhere.

“But a lot of pathways to divert people from crisis may not be there anymore,” he said.