Police and crime commissioner elections: Suffolk's rural challenge

Whoever is chosen as Suffolk's first police and crime commissioner (PCC) will have to quickly get to grips with the realities of policing a largely rural county.

Suffolk is one of 41 forces across England and Wales that will be overseen by PCCs after elections on 15 November.

The PCCs will replace existing police authorities and be responsible for holding their forces to account with the power to set budgets and appoint and chief police constables.

Four candidates are standing for the post in Suffolk, which will carry a £70,000 salary.

The winner will oversee the policing of a large county with an area of about 1,500 sq miles (3,900 sq km) and a population of 728,000.

The force has been set the target by the government of saving £17.7m between now and 2014-15, and with more than 400 villages in the county, that is likely to mean resources are even more thinly spread in rural areas.

So what do the candidates think about the challenges of policing a county like Suffolk, and what would be their priorities in ensuring the service reaches even the most remote communities?


Image caption Jane Basham wants police officers to be more visible

Jane Basham, Labour's candidate, would like to see Suffolk's special constabulary strengthened and play a greater role in policing the county's villages.

"I would like to see a special constable in every parish and I think we need to ensure the role of special is protected," she said.

"We need police officers to be more visible, not just going round in cars."

She said she believed schemes such as Farm Watch, in which people in rural areas are encouraged to share information and take crime reduction measures, could play a key role.

"It's about maximising the use of schemes like Farm Watch to make sure they feel protected in rural areas," she said.

"We need more community-based solutions and technology can play a part. I think the police are not always great at sharing information in a way people can access it."

DAVID COCKS - Independent

Image caption David Cocks believes greater co-operation is essential

Independent candidate David Cocks said greater co-operation between the police and other bodies was crucial in ensuring the county was well served.

"Rural areas have very strong communities. Parish councils are strong and they're important partners for the police," he said.

"The police are there to catch criminals and prevent crime. We need to make sure partners and communities are working well to identify concerns and police are responding to them.

"I do believe in responding in a targeted way. That is a challenge for any service you provide.

"If you have an incident are you able to respond in a similar way in rural and urban areas?"

BILL MOUNTFORD - United Kingdom Independence Party

Image caption Bill Mountford would like to see an enhanced role for special constables

UK Independence Party candidate Bill Mountford also believes there should be an enhanced role for special constables, along with police community support officers (PCSOs).

"Suffolk is essentially a rural county. PCSOs and special constables can plug some of the gap," he said.

"The police are over-stretched. It will require greater manpower for them to just show their faces once in a while."

Mr Mountford said many villages in Suffolk still had police houses where village bobbies once lived and could be easily contacted. "I don't know if it's possible to bring that back," he said.

And he said greater use could possibly be made of information from calls to the force's 101 non-emergency number to build up intelligence.

TIM PASSMORE - Conservative

Image caption Tim Passmore wants to ensure rural areas get a fair share of resources

Tim Passmore, the Conservative candidate, said rural policing was a big issue.

"A lot of people who live in remote areas feel they get a raw deal. We have to make sure rural areas get a fair share of the resources being spent," he said.

"Having more specials is one way to help. Special constables and PCSOs can be a very good source of information."

He said it might be unrealistic to have one special constable for every parish in the county, but that one for every other parish might be feasible.

"There are nearly 300 specials and 100 more would help quite a lot," he said.

"The general public have a lot of intelligence and evidence for the fight against crime. We need a better network so people can come forward with it."

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