The county’s police and crime commissioner has given an assurance that the police station in St Neots will not close while he remains in post.
Jason Ablewhite was speaking at a public engagement meeting in St Neots on Monday night where members of the public raised concerns about visible policing and delays in reporting crime.
Mr Ablewhite told members of the public at the Eatons Community Centre: “St Neots police station is not closing. I would like to dispel the myth. You will continue to have a police station in St Neots. I give you an assurance that while I am in this position, you will continue to have a police station in the town.”
Mr Ablewhite, did, however, accept that the police station, in Dovehouse Close, was operating on reduced opening hours.
One member of the public said he had gone to the police station to report a crime and had been “surprised” to see a note on the door which read “closed due to lack of staff”.
Members of the public also talked about the lack of visible policing, with one man saying he wanted to see “someone walking up and down the High Street”. He said this would encourage people to report crime. Another said it was a “rarity” to see a police officer or a police car in St Neots.
Mr Ablewhite said the modern police force would not be returning to a “nostalgic era” of bobbies on the beat walking up and down high streets as there were more efficient and cost-saving ways to tackle and prevent crime.
“Community policing has become too reactive and we need to create a preventative and cost-effective space,” he said.
Chief Inspector Steve Kerridge, who sat on the police panel, alongside Mr Ablewhite and Chief Constable Nick Dean, encouraged people to use the online reporting system, which he said ensured that intelligence could be passed on in an effective manner.
“We have made significant strides in the last few years and more than ever we are engaging with people who previously had no voice,” said Chief Constable Dean.
He said modern-day slavery, the sexual exploitation of children and organised crime groups using vulnerable members of the public were all things the force was dealing with in this category.
But there were also concerns about the effectiveness of the police 101 telephone reporting line, which one member of the public described as “discredited” as it was so difficult to get through.
Another said he had experienced difficulty and frustration in his attempts to report a burglary when he repeatedly got an engaged tone.
Several members of the audience raised fears about drugs. One woman said she had found drug paraphernalia at the Riverside Park and another said it was possible to smell cannabis in the street where she lived.
Inspector Steve Kerridge explained that some of the items described were not illegal for people to take, only to sell.
Mr Ablewhite also talked about the continued growth of St Neots and the pressures that will bring for the force over the next 20 years.
“The pressure the force is experiencing is about growth. The growth in the last 15 years, and the county is set to grow further. In 20 years there will be a million people living in Cambridgeshire and as a rural force that creates a lot of demand,” he said
Mr Ablewhite also referred to the funding settlement, the amount of money the Home Office gives to each police force, and described Cambridgeshire “as one of the poorest funded in the country”.
“The Government hears my voice loud and clear. We need more money to ensure we can support the growth,” he said.