I THOUGHT your readers should be made aware of the almost non-existent cover provided by our local constabulary.
Recently, while walking our dog, my daughter and I noticed two people in very suspicious circumstances at the top of our lane. It was dark, and one of the two cars had its lights on and engine running, with headlights pointing at the residence of a very old and frail ex-farmer.
In the recent past, this gentleman has had intruders break into his house, threaten him and stolen shotguns. From the barn just a few yards away he has had diesel, vehicle batteries and various farming equipment taken on a regular basis. The nearest house is some 200 yards away. Various suspicious circumstances, I think your readers would agree.
We rang 999 at 9.57pm and reported all of these facts, only to be told: "If there is a car in the area, I will see if they will do a drive-past." Presumably, if there was no car in the area, the ex-farmer was on his own, and the term "drive-past" was not very inspiring.
Despite the operator's advice to finish our walk and go home, we did what all decent neighbours would do and watched from a safe distance.
I suspect that the two individuals knew that we were there because they kept shining a torch in our direction and eventually they left at 10.35pm.
As no police had arrived, I phoned the non-emergency number 101 (at 10.40pm) to enquire why. Surprise, surprise: it was all down to lack of resources.
I said that I wanted to make a formal complaint to which I was told someone would ring me back as soon as possible, but could not give me any indication of when that would be.
At 11.40pm I received a call from a Pc (hooray, there are still one or two left) asking where these cars were as my clear instructions had not been passed on to them, and they had spent the last five minutes driving up and down the lane. He apologised sincerely for the inadequate service (the only person who has) and then repeated dutifully the excuse that they are no doubt instructed to state "it's all down to lack of resources".
Not having received a response to my complaint the previous evening I rang 101 at 10.55am the following day and spoke to two more civilian staff whose sole objective was to wear me out by getting me to repeat my story. I was told that someone would contact me.
At 2.10pm a WPS rang me (not a sufficient rank after all this time). She had not been briefed, and had not bothered to prepare for my obvious questions such has how many officers were on duty at that time and where were they?
After much persuasion she came back to me with that information but absolutely staggered me when I pointed out that a patrol car anywhere in the county could have got here in 30 minutes. She replied that in no circumstances would they send a patrol car from another division. I asked: even if the householder was being attacked? She replied flippantly: "Yes, but he wasn't, was he?" I replied that, for all she knew, he might be lying there dead.
My request to speak to someone more senior was denied. I was subsequently told that my complaint was closed and I could not take it any further. That being so, it seems pointless to write to the Chief Constable (as normal courtesy would require) as he will only pass my complaint down the line for a response, probably blaming the Government for lack of funding, hoping to increase public opinion against further decreases in their funding.
This not an isolated instance: in the summer an angler reported at midnight someone breaking into my garden, to which the police arrived mid-morning the next day not at the spot indicated quite clearly by the angler but a good half-mile away.
A farm vehicle worth some £20,000 was stolen down this lane, and sightings were reported of its being carried on a lorry towards St Neots. The farmer's request for the police to look at CCTV cameras in St Neots was met with "we don't have time to look at cameras". The offer by the farmer to look at the cameras himself was declined on grounds of "data protection".
NAME and ADDRESS supplied
Simon Parr, Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, responds: "I was disappointed to read about your reader's recent experience with the force and feel that in this case we must unequivocally apologise, as we have not responded in the way I would expect.
"We are in the early stages of implementing a new policing model which puts local policing at the heart of our work. We knew it would be unlikely our new systems and processes would work perfectly first time, every time. However from the onset I have made it clear that we would monitor our performance to see that things are working and where they are not ensure appropriate action is taken.
"The response in this case was clearly not good enough, and is not typical of how we want to work. I have asked for this matter to be reviewed to ensure that we understand what went wrong, and so that we can improve our future responses and communication with the public.
"Our focus remains protecting frontline policing and keeping the public safe, but this will not be an easy task as we continue to remove funds from our budget. We have a difficult job ahead and, while it is our intention to focus on the issues that create the greatest levels of risk, threat and harm within the communities we serve, we will, no doubt, have to make more changes.
"Crime remains down in Huntingdonshire, and the public play an important role in helping us to maintain this downward trend. I would urge anyone who thinks they see anything suspicious in their area to report it to police and we will take the most appropriate action needed."