Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Police numbers could be cut, says outgoing officer

Police numbers could be cut, says outgoing officer

THE number of police officers in the Henley area could be reduced, according to the town’s outgoing sergeant.

Sgt Neil Anns, who will move on in January after a year in the post, blamed plans to withdraw the Government’s contributions towards officers’ pensions.

At the moment, officers pay 15 per cent of their salary into their schemes with a further 14 per cent coming from the Government.

However, the Home Office is consulting on plans to cut the Government’s contribution.

Sgt Anns told a meeting of Henley Town Council’s town and community committee that if this went ahead then Thames Valley Police would lose £9 million from its budget in the year beginning on April 1 and about £16 million the year after that.

This would increase the pressure on the police.

He said: “Most police officers get £30,000 a year so that [cut] represents a lot of officers, cars, kit and so on and it would have quite a significant impact on us locally and across the force.

“I’m really hoping that it will not go ahead. This change could see a reduction in officer numbers at a time when we’re already hugely challenged in meeting our policing needs across the town and the district and I would really seek to avoid this.”

Sgt Anns, whose successor has not yet been named, praised his team’s efforts in the year since his appointment but said resources remained the biggest challenge.

He said the public should continue to report crimes but recommended doing so online as the force’s non-emergency number 101 was often busy with both legitimate and unnecessary calls.

Sgt Anns said: “I’ve made the case on many occasions and that is the one thing I would change as it would significantly increase our capacity to get out there and really engage with people while disrupting the activities of criminals.

“However, I would also emphasise that Henley is a very safe town. There have been posts on social media about crimes taking place and claiming the police do a poor job yet often no one has reported those alleged incidents to the police. We’ve actually spoken to individuals about certain allegations that are outright untrue and we’re urging people to talk to us instead of just complaining online and assuming we’ll know about it.

“If you tell us what you know, we can do something about it. It might seem trivial or insignificant to you but for us it may just be the missing piece from a bigger puzzle and one that will help us see a pattern.

“We’re here and we’re listening. Only the other day someone approached a police community support officer and gave her reels of information so we’d encourage people to keep doing that.”

He said recent successes in Henley included a four-day operation in which two boys, aged 15 and 17, were arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply while 14 men were cautioned for possessing cannabis.

This followed tip-offs from the public, town councillors and staff at the d:two centre in Upper Market Place.

Sgt Anns said: “Those two boys were massively concerning given their age but there’s a lot of work going on with the parents, who have responded fantastically and grounded their children. We have further operations planned but clearly I can’t give the game away.

“Disrupting the drugs supply is our highest priority at the moment because of its links with antisocial behaviour and violent crime.”

Deputy Mayor Ken Arlett said he was disappointed Sgt Anns was leaving after such a short time.

He said: “When I was mayor in 1991 we had a sergeant who’d been here for many years and knew the town like the back of his hand. If a crime was reported he’d have a very good idea who was responsible. He was asked to move on but refused.

“You’re on this road to promotion but what’s the point in you coming in, getting to know everyone, sorting things out and then flying on? It has been good for you and you’ve learned a lot but Henley loses out.”

Sgt Anns replied: “I empathise entirely but everyone in the community knows Pcs Barbara Taylor and Alex Norrish, without whom I wouldn’t have learned so much, as well as Pcso Claire Hewett.

“My successor will have to put in a lot of effort but there’s still a lot of knowledge there.”

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