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Rural areas 'could suffer' in police shake-up

PUBLISHED: 16:12 06 April 2010 | UPDATED: 16:59 06 July 2010

PROPOSALS to shake up the organisation of the police force in Suffolk could leave some rural areas without adequate cover, it has been claimed.

Suffolk police's 23 response centres are set to be reduced to just nine as part of plans to overhaul the force, but concerns have been raised that the changes might lead to an increase in response times for more rural areas.

PROPOSALS to shake up the organisation of the police force in Suffolk could leave some rural areas without adequate cover, it has been claimed.

Suffolk police's 23 response centres are set to be reduced to just nine as part of plans to overhaul the force, but concerns have been raised that the changes might lead to an increase in response times for more rural areas.

Officers will be briefed at one of the new bases, which includes stations in Mildenhall, Bury St Edmunds, Halesworth and Lowestoft, and they will then be deployed to patrol a particular area.

New technology will then be used to track where vehicles are so the nearest, most appropriate resource can respond to a call.

Police chiefs believe this will lead to an improved service.

However Simon Tobin, vice-chairman of Waveney District Council, said: “I have some serious concerns about this 'streamlining' or for a better word, 'cut', in service. I believe it is a serious move backwards and to my knowledge has not been discussed with district councils or the community as a whole.

“If a major incident happened in Southwold, the area may have a response officer or team coming in from say, Woodbridge - 35 miles away - because the Halesworth team is in Lowestoft. The response time will be far too long.”

Suffolk police has pledged that the number of officers on the street will not change and that a patrol plan has been developed to ensure appropriate coverage across the county at all times.

Meanwhile, the 23 bases currently used by response officers will still be used by the safer neighbourhood teams (SNTs).

Assistant chief constable Gary Kitching said: “I'd like to assure people in rural communities that their SNTs will remain and will continue to work closely with partners and local communities to deal with problems highlighted by local people and to provide a visible presence county-wide.

“Response officers and SNT officers will continue to work together to tackle local issues.”

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