Road to nowhere? Move raises fears over policing

March Police Station Exterior
March Police Station Exterior
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Plans to move all road traffic policing out of Fenland and into Huntingdon could leave the district without proper police cover.

That’s the fear expressed by a serving officer this week who believes the cost cutting proposal that will see Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire share resources is a step in the wrong direction.

March Police Station Exterior

March Police Station Exterior

At present there are four traffic bases across the county, including the one at March which covers Fenland, with 50 officers. The new proposal currently being discussed will see the four merge into one centre at police headquarters in Huntingdon with the loss of two police sergeants.

The officer, who did not want to be named, fears the move will increase response times and eventually lead to fewer traffic police on Fenland’s roads.

He said at present there are 10 traffic officers, and two sergeants using four cars based at March police station with at least two cars on the road at any one time.

Road police are responsible for dealing with major incidents and enforcement of traffic laws, but they also provide cover attending incidents such as fights and robberies if they are closest to the scene; dealing with the situation until other divisional officers arrive.

This also works in reverse with divisional officers attending crashes and dealing with the incident until the traffic team arrive.

The officer believes this kind of working will be lost in the shake-up which he said will definitely go ahead “sooner rather than later”.

He said the only hold-up at the moment is the “thrashing out” of a shift pattern which will allow Cambridgeshire’s road policing team to work in with teams from both Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Forces under the supervision of one sergeant.

Cambridgeshire’s officers could be called upon to deal with incidents in the other two counties, which the officer fears could lead to a shortage of traffic police on the county’s roads.

Relocation of officers to Huntingdon could lead to increased response times because of the distance from Huntingdon to places like Wisbech, particularly because of the heavy traffic at peak times.

Local knowledge could also be lost and the officer believes that eventually the county’s road policing team will be made up of people from the Huntingdon area because others won’t want to commute to work.

“We all live in the community we serve. We have a vested interest because it is our area and we have excellent local knowledge about the parts of the district which benefit from a higher police presence. They tried moving officers out of Wisbech before and it didn’t work and I believe this will be the same,” he said.

A Cambs Police spokesman said: “The police authorities for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire have given their in-principle approval to the establishment of a joint road policing unit for the three forces. This joint unit is likely to be implemented during the first half of 2013. The in-principle approval enables staff consultation processes to begin, which enable those directly affected by the proposals to review the plans and submit alternative proposals if they wish, prior to the unit being implemented.

“The location of the bases for the joint unit remain subject to further discussion, although it is likely that there will be one base per each force area. The final decision regarding locations will be based on factors such as operational demand, access to the road infrastructure and response times data.

“As a joint unit, resources will be deployed at optimum levels to match demand and, by working collaboratively, there are options to deploy cross border when required, although Cambridgeshire officers will be primarily working across their own force area. The ability to deploy cross border is mutually beneficial to all three forces, allowing for greater resilience during times of peak demand in any of the counties.”