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'Fenland Police must work with community to make district a hostile place for criminals'

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Here's the first On The Beat column by Cambridgeshire Police's Fenland Area Commander Superintendent Neil Billany...

Hello and thank you for reading my first column. When I started the North Area Commander role in late February, one key challenge was improving our communication with the people we are here to work with, and for, to make Fenland safer.

Having the opportunity to write a regular column allows me to write directly to you. I will look to update you on the work we are doing and answer questions you might have. What I want to do is really open the doors on what we do, how we do it, and where we want to improve in future.

Supt Neil Billany (57672366)
Supt Neil Billany (57672366)

I joined Cambridgeshire Constabulary having spent 20 years working in North and Central London. You may ask, fairly, after that length of time in a huge city, what do I know about policing rural communities and market towns?

The thing is, while the Peterborough aspect of my job was hugely appealing, it was the opportunity to lead policing in Fenland that really got me interested.

I grew up in East Yorkshire, initially living in Hull but moving to Beverley, a rural market town with a population of 30,000, when I was five.

I spent much of my childhood and early adult years in the countryside surrounding the town – our house backed directly onto farmers’ fields.

My uncle was a farm labourer, and I had many friends in the farming community or who lived in the many villages surrounding the town.

As such, I completely appreciate the concerns of the Fenland communities, especially with your police teams also technically having responsibility for Peterborough.

I also understand that while the benefits of living in a small town or the countryside are immense, there can also be a feeling of a lack of investment or interest from bodies like the police who must also balance the needs of demanding urban areas.

What we do have in Fenland are two close-knit stations providing a level of service not often seen elsewhere.

For example, the teams in March and Wisbech work across the entire Fenland area together, there are no barriers between uniformed officers and detectives like you may see on TV dramas.

The officers here know and love the area they police and genuinely want to do their best for the community.

I am also really pleased that we have the nationally recognised Rural Crime Action Team who work tirelessly to deal with issues that do not often attract headline news but cost rural communities hundreds of thousands of pounds in terms of damage to farmland and agricultural theft.

At a time it feels the country is genuinely looking to invest in British farming I accept that if we are to make this a success we, as a joint enterprise of police and community, have to come together to make Fenland a hostile place for criminals.

I will be looking to get out with the neighbourhood teams working across the area and look forward to meeting some of you in due course.

Please don’t forget you can contact us any time of the day or night via our website – www.cambs.police.uk – where you can report crime or let us know any concerns you have. We want to hear what is important to you.

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