The Home Secretary has called for more “creative” ways of rural policing, while on a visit to Lancashire.
Theresa May visited with Andrew Pratt, the Conservative candidate for the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for the county.
The pair said policing needed to become more innovative, as resources were stretched and crime changed.
Mr Pratt said the neighbourhood policing model was becoming “very fragile in some areas”.
He said: “It’s still there, but our rural communities are the areas that have some of the greatest difficulties.
“It’s partly a resourcing issue, partly making best use of the staff we’ve got, and partly where we place them.
In a number of areas cooperation and collaboration can take placeTheresa May
“There are only six custody suites left in the county, and that’s basically the six main police stations, out of what used to be 40 to 50 police stations.”
He said: “Where we’ve got more people there will be more crime, but it’s trying to make sure we don’t lose the focus on those communities.”
The Home Secretary said it was important for police to understand the significance of rural crime, and said: “As a farmer, if you’ve spent money on a key bit of kit and that’s taken, that can be really difficult.
“After introducing the PCCs, they’ve set up a national rural crime network because of this recognition that dealing with rural crime is different to dealing with crime in other areas.” Speaking about the changing face of crime and policing, Mrs May added: “It’s being more creative and innovative and thinking about how to provide that visibility. There is a challenge to police in that crime is changing, so the police officer walking down the street might spot somebody who may be about to steal a car, but doesn’t spot the person sitting in the back bedroom defrauding elderly residents online.”
And the Home Secretary gave assurances Police in Lancashire would not become part of a combined force with other authorities,.
Theresa May spoke to The Gazette yesterday evening with Andrew Pratt, the Conservative candidate for the county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC).
She said the force may share some services with other areas to become more efficient, but vowed it would not lose its identity.
The Home Secretary said: “I think in most cases we can get the benefits of the economics of scale by collaboration, and we don’t need to lose our force identity.”
She said other forces across the country were already working on collaborations, and said: “My own local force, Thames Valley, has had IT collaboration.
“There’s a lot of work being done around how we can provide the best forces most efficiently and effectively, while still maintaining an individual force identity.
“I think we can retain that identity that people feel it is their force, but, in a number of areas, cooperation and collaboration can take place.” Mrs May said the Home Office now had responsibility for fire and rescue, and said: “In the policing and crime bill, we are putting in some enabling powers for collaboration between PCCs and the fire service.”
Mrs May visited Lancashire where she met Mr Pratt, a retired police officer standing in the PCC election for Lancashire.
Mr Pratt said: “I would like to see a lot more of us collaborating with the fire service.
“For instance, in Preston, the retained fire stations have an ability to house police officers and we need to get into a discussion about that, rather than taking them out of the community.”
Mrs May spent time visiting the county yesterday and said: “I’ve been talking a little bit about the collaboration, and about bringing policing together with other agencies more generally.
“I’ve talked a little bit about child sexual exploitation and how it is important that people feel comfortable and confident enough to be able to report it, and that they feel there are people they can go to who will listen to what they are saying.
“In Cumbria I was looking at how police there are using body cameras and the technology they are using now to make it a simpler process through the justice system.”
There are four candidates vying for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner in Lancashire.
Labour’s Clive Grunshaw is currently in post, Mr Pratt is standing for the Conservatives, James Barker for UKIP and Graham Roach for the Liberal Democrats.