A safe place to live
AFTER the publication of an inspection report which praises the work of officers in North Herts and Stevenage, Comet reporter NICOLA BASTENDORFF met with area commander Chief Supt Gary Kitching and his deputy Supt Adrian Walter to discuss the challenges t
AFTER the publication of an inspection report which praises the work of officers in North Herts and Stevenage, Comet reporter NICOLA BASTENDORFF met with area commander Chief Supt Gary Kitching and his deputy Supt Adrian Walter to discuss the challenges they still face.
Eastern area, which covers North Herts and Stevenage as well as East Herts and Broxbourne, has just received a glowing report from Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary - something Chief Supt Kitching refers to as a kind of "ofsted for police".
In it, his unit is described as a "well led division" and its findings were "very positive".
It states there has been a 20 per cent decrease in burglary of dwellings and two per cent decrease in vehicle crime while there has been an "insignificant" two per cent rise in violent crime and an 11 per cent rise in robberies.
The report says: "Although there has been an increase in robberies, the number for the unit are small and for a large geographic area it still only averages a little over one robbery per day."
Neighbourhood policing is highlighted for special praise in the report along with the area's leadership at all levels.
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In fact, Home Secretary John Reid was due to attend Stevenage Police Station to highlight this "very positive" report but due to the terrorist scares in London last month the visit was called off.
But according to Chief Supt Kitching and Supt Walter, North Herts and Stevenage is a safe place to live with the main problem being anti-social behaviour.
Chief Supt Kitching said: "PCSOs (police community support officers) are making a real difference to our communities. They increase officer visibility. It helps with public reassurance.
"Every meeting I go to, anti-social behaviour is the main problem mentioned. Here in Stevenage we have been proactive, we have identified those responsible and have created a map of the gangs with all the members and all the intelligence we have on them."
The next step is to reassure the public by getting their community teams into their communities.
Negotiations are under way in Stevenage to base its team inside one particular school's ground rather than its current police station home.
Chief Supt Kitching added: "You have to be in the community. You have to be on the ground. We want to be more accessible to the public. It will be mutually beneficial for the school and for us.
"We want to stop being 'faceless' and for young people to know their local officer."
In Stevenage the leisure park and the "night time economy" as they call it is a big issue for officers. The businesses at the Leisure Park pay for the extra officers needed to police the area - a standard Chief Supt Kitching wants to apply across his area.
Supt Walter said: "It is interesting to see the changes surrounding drinks and entertainment. It is not always pubs and clubs - we have problems with fast food outlets too. If society is turning to a more 24/7 drinking culture we have to adjust our response to cope with that.
"It is a case of balancing our resources and working with our partners."
One area of weakness highlighted in the report is the area's young staff and the problems that brings with training.
Chief Supt Kitching said: "We have a very young workforce and a staff development system which has not been able to cope with it. We lose experienced staff to recruitment drives elsewhere."
Both men are very pleased with the report and will use it to progress even further.
Supt Walter said: "We need to change our policing and take it into the 21 century rather than stay stuck in the past.