Article by Guy Bell: Billericay's former iconic station cost £2 million a year to maintain but town council chairman Jim Devlin of Billericay Town Council has revealed long-term plans to bring back a visible police presence.
Now the town could be set for a community police station in the wake of cuts to the county's force and house a "one-stop shop" in their new town hall.
He admitted that "bobbies on the beat" is not what the town needs but would like to see a community-led pop-up station at the Chantry Way Day Centre.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Jim Devlin"]I was very much of the view there needed to be a police presence but I am convinced now that would be a waste of resources. The public has to realise the police have to work smarter and we will, as a council, do whatever we can to facilitate that."[/quote]
DS Stuart Hooper is targeting a blend of policing strategies
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by DS Stuart Hooper"]It would be a way of informing the police of incidents but run by the community. There need to be more one-stop shops where people can access services.[/quote]
But Cllr Devlin said it the plans would not spawn a vigilante group but it will take time for a pop-up station to materialise.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Jim Devlin"]People like to see bobbies on the beat but reality means that can't happen. We could actually have a police station or a visible presence incorporated into the Day Centre and maybe with volunteers. That is where I think that is going so people can actually see somebody. But that kind of thing wouldn't be a good use of a policeman's time. They are meant to be catching villains.[/quote]
Basildon's Detective Superintendent Stuart Hooper is keen to wait and see what opportunities arise and get a feel for demand.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted b DS Hooper"]Emergency Community Messaging and Twitter have given the police an alternative way to communicate with the public. Social media is one of the best things for engagement but you can never say never to anything. We will identify opportunities and we are always open to them, particularly if they are places where we can engage with people.[/quote]
DS Hooper is aware of concerns about police cuts but assured the public his team are doing their best they can to address them.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by DS Hooper"]The closure of Billericay's station has only been for a short while. The changes only took effect this week and we will work with our partners to understand the concerns of the public and see how we can best address those. If we get invited to something then we would probably say yes and it would have to be a two-way process.[/quote]
DS Hooper emphasised the power of social media but admitted not all people will feel the benefit of modern technology.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by DS Hooper"]You have to look at the elderly and they probably don't have access to social media and it is more engaging to meet face-to-face. Working people have busy lifestyles and Billericay is a commuting town so social media seems like the best way to engage with those people.[/quote]
Despite Cllr Devlin being convinced bobbies on the beat is not the answer to solving crime, leader of Basildon Borough Council leader Phil Turner wants to see a visible presence in the town.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Phil Turner"]It would be nice for Billericay Town Council to have some facility for a police station when the town council rebuild the Day Centre. While I'm not berating Nick Alston for closing Billericay's station I am insisting on having a presence in the town. People feel reassured when they see police in the streets. Jim has got the brilliant opportunity with the Day Centre to make this kind of thing happen but, if not, there are other opportunities. Tony Hedley has a fire station and I'm sure the library would like to house a police officer. Mary Magdalen Church is open to the community and it doesn't take a lot for an officer of community officer to be stationed there.[/quote]
Article by Guy Bell, Brentwood Gazette