Residents urge cash-strapped police to put more officers on the streets

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Residents urged Hampshire police to increase their numbers
Budget cuts were blamed for fewer officers covering the west of the New Forest

FRUSTRATED residents are putting pressure on the police force to increase the number of uniformed officers on the streets of New Milton.

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Inspector Scott Beney, from the New Forest neighbourhood policing team, was invited to make a presentation at New Milton Community Association’s latest monthly meeting about crime in the area.

Opening the floor to questions, he came under fire from attendees, who questioned why they could no longer see a uniformed police presence.

They highlighted the issue of anti-social behaviour in and around the high street, including alcohol and drug abuse, the dealing of drugs and speeding vehicles, particularly on Gore Road.

One resident complained: “People here, including myself who live in the flats above the high street, have to put up with drunken or homeless people sleeping in our archways, swearing and shouting, and public drinking and public urination nearly every night.

“We phone 101 and sometimes wait for over an hour trying to report these incidents. Elderly residents can’t get online to report it as they don’t have access to the internet and won’t ring 999 because it’s for more serious matters.

“We put up with it day after day and wonder what the police are doing about it.”

Responding, Insp. Beney blamed budget cuts for the low number of officers covering his four west New Forest stations at Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood and Fordingbridge.

Defending his policing teams, he said: “Since 2010 [Hampshire Constabulary] have had to take out £90m per annum from our operating budget, and that has had a massive impact. We now have just over 1,500 fewer officers and staff serving the communities.

“We have had a perfect storm in terms of reduced officer numbers – I have fewer people in my team to put out on the streets and we have bigger demand coming in. We have had to make some quite tough decisions when it comes to prioritising what we deal with and what we can realistically achieve.

“When looking at where I deploy my teams, I take into account what the threat is, what the harm and risks associated with those incidents are and what opportunities I can get a positive result out of – this can be someone being locked up, or someone safeguarded who is vulnerable in our society.

“I start at the top of that list and work my way as far down as I can until I run out of resources, and that means there are some things I wish we could get to that we just physically can’t.”

Insp. Beney pointed out that in the last 12 months, there had been 137 fewer reported crimes in New Milton, which he said was “really pleasing to see”.

No further cuts to staffing would be made, he assured residents, adding he would be looking to increase the number of offers and staff in New Milton, particularly.

“Currently, here in the town we have three PCs and two PCSOs, and by the end of the year I am expecting to have an extra two PCSOs.

“The Lymington team, which works very closely with the New Milton team, is getting extra staff as well, which means there will be generally more officers able to turn up to jobs.

“Sometimes, you might not always get a police officer physically come out to you, but I can guarantee that I am looking at every single report that comes in and whether it is part of a bigger trend.

“We have just had all our inspections, which are carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and we are the only force in the country that has a ‘good’ rating across all categories.

“This is a big success and we punch well above our weight as one of the leanest forces in the country.”

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