'Public could help to run police stations' says commissioner Tony Hogg
DEVON and Cornwall's policing boss has suggested that the public could run police stations.
Police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg told West Cornwall Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators that he did not like to see police stations closed and was looking at options for keeping them open.
He told members they were "the eyes and ears" of policing and would play an increasingly important role as cuts to the policing budget took their toll.
"The Neighbourhood Watch role is important," Mr Hogg told members of the Penwith Area Crime Prevention Group, made up of Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators.
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"It is you, the public, playing your part in the policing family; you are the police's eyes and ears."
Mr Hogg said that in his first 12 months as the two counties' first police commissioner a huge amount had been done but, there were major challenges still to be faced.
"The police feel under siege from the press, the public and the Government but they need to be more open," he said. "There is currently a distance between the police and the public."
An example, he said, was a reluctance on the part of the police to let the public help run their stations.
"There's nothing I hate more than walking past a closed police station," he said. "I'm trying to cut through police attitudes and see if we can do things another way.
"Police need to let people into the fortress of the police station. We're all in this together and we need to see if we can do things differently."
He admitted that there were difficult decisions for the police to make on fighting cybercrime in Devon and Cornwall, hindered by a computer system that was in the "Dark Ages".
The 101 non-emergency number had not been a success, he said, and it was crazy that the new NHS number was the very similar 111.
Many of the calls made to 101 were about non-police issues such as dog-fouling or parking and he suggested a multi-agency approach to the service.
Mr Hogg said he sensed the public were now used to PCSOs, and they, as well as Special Constables and organisations such as Neighbourhood Watch, had an important part to play in policing the county.
He was also pleased that a new computer system, Unify, was due to come online shortly, but warned: "At the moment we have a balanced budget and steady police numbers but in 2016-17 the police face a 15 per cent cut in funding. That's pretty severe and we're trying to plan for that."