Following a period of consultation, Superintendent Ann Wakefield has set out her plans for redeploying police officers in and around Andover. These are set out in the letter below.
"I understand the anxiety in the rural areas at these proposals, but there are good reasons for making changes to respond to policing needs. I was pleased to see that the impact of these changes will be kept under constant review and on that basis am minded to support them."
10 August 2004
Dear Sir George
Policing Structure within Test Valley Borough
I refer to my previous letter of 30 June 2004 regarding the review of policing in Test Valley and I am now writing to advise you of the outcome. My officers have already been made aware of these decisions and you may hear various versions, hence this early letter.
I am concerned that many writers, who responded to my first letter, were not fully aware of the policing service they currently receive and the structure of policing locally and will seek to address this shortly.
Thank you to the many of you who responded with views, I am delighted that there is so much interest in the policing you receive and where you have forwarded a copy of my original letter onto others, I would be grateful if you could also forward a copy of this response. I answered the majority of letters and e-mails received but those arriving at the time of the final decisions I have not acknowledged since this letter was imminent.
Needless to say there was a wide variety of opinions in the replies I received but some consistent views emerged: The strongest consensus in both urban and rural areas was the wish to retain a structure of beat officers and great value was put upon having a named officer (or team of officers) responsible for an area and known locally.
Rural areas reported feeling vulnerable despite recognising crime levels are extremely low and were concerned that the policing service might completely withdraw in the way other public services are perceived to have done.
Urban areas felt very strongly that they had insufficient police officers to manage the demands of their area.
Many writers also referred to the need to maintain an effective emergency response. This is, of course, a statutory responsibility.
I regret some writers concentrated purely on numbers of officers posted to a station. This is a very simplistic measure of little value in dealing with the complexities of policing roles, not least because most areas are served from more than one station.
Some respondents would clearly have preferred to have been given some options on which to comment. Whilst I do understand this view it was not possible for two main reasons. Firstly, that the review started from a zero base so the possible combinations were numerous and, secondly, I was seeking general priorities and concerns as opposed to detailed views.
The outcome of the review creates the following changes:
The Test Valley area is currently divided geographically into 3 Sectors, each headed by an Inspector.
This structure will change to 2 Sectors combining the rural area with Andover town as one Sector area and retaining Romsey Sector in its current form. Under this arrangement the two Sectors have sufficient officers to be viable and retain flexibility to respond quickly to operational requirements.
The beat structure will remain and the current officers will continue in post (those beat officers due to retire shortly will be replaced). Beat 1 at Stockbridge, including Goodworth Clatford, Barton Stacey, Anna Valley, Wherewell, Chilbolton and Longparish currently run by PC Sian Newland, carries a far higher workload than other beats and this area will be divided into two creating an additional beat for a new beat officer. Beat officers will now generally deal with all non-emergency matters in their area.
The rural area is also currently served by an emergency response car based at Weyhill. The location of its base is irrelevant as the vehicle should be patrolling the area constantly, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. This vehicle will remain to provide a rapid response to the very few 999 calls received in rural areas. However, it will now take an additional role for the majority of time when such calls are not being received as described below.
As a matter of course, Police resources are directed towards areas of greatest need and demand and with such low crime levels and few incidents in rural areas, this inevitably means that rural issues never feature as a priority for police action when competing with urban issues. To address this imbalance the response car will operate as a proactive rural unit and will be tasked to patrol areas that are experiencing problems such as anti-social behaviour which is not at a level found elsewhere but is, nevertheless, a source of concern to local residents. Some officers were already doing this and proving very effective in apprehending offenders and I would like to extend this work. The number of officers staffing this vehicle has increased from 8 to 10 to provide a more sustainable shift system and to ensure the car is always on patrol and always staffed by 2 officers.
There have previously been 3 additional posts at Stockbridge and 3 at Weyhill to provide an additional officer on a shift and who worked with the beat officers dealing with non-emergency issues. These posts will be moved to Andover and Romsey to support officers at these stations who are managing greater demands than the rural officers. This will not result in overloading the beat officers in rural areas as their workload has traditionally been disproportionately lower than that of their urban colleagues.
For those who are interested specifically in numbers, Stockbridge moves from 6 to 4 constables (plus the response car cover which has increased from 8 to 10), Weyhill moves from 6 to 3 constables plus the response car cover, Romsey retains its 2 rural posts, i.e. the rural area overall changes from 22 to 18 posts, Andover gains 4 posts and Romsey gains 2 (from central posts).
There are several additional units of officers supporting Test Valley who will remain, including CID who deal with all major crimes and the Community Safety Unit who manage all high risk residents, including registered sex offenders and persistent and priority offenders, they also oversee matters such as domestic violence and missing persons. Both CID and the Community Safety Unit staff include work in rural areas.
The above is intended as a short summary of the review to ensure you are kept informed of decisions from an early stage. Changes will be made over the next 2 - 3 months as personnel move.
I will be forwarding a booklet to you shortly which will provide more detail of the policing service available in your area to try and address some misunderstandings that exist and clarify many of the issues this letter may raise. However, should you have any further queries after receipt of that information please do not hesitate to contact me.
In the meantime, I would like to make it absolutely clear that the police levels for each area provided in this review are more equitable than previously was the case and rural areas, despite having numerically less officers at specific sites, have gained a proactive unit specific to their needs.
I would also reassure all residents that we review crimes, incidents and patrol patterns on a daily basis and in more detail on a weekly basis for the Test Valley. Should any adverse outcome from this review emerge we will, of course, respond to it immediately.
West Hampshire Basic Command Unit