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Concerns over policing in Frome

Under threat - Frome police station.

Under threat – Frome police station.

THERE are growing concerns about the future of policing with fears that the town’s police station is to close in a ‘matter of weeks’.

The town has already been hit by a reduction in the number of police officers and now, Frome Times understands, the police station will be closing in the near future.

A local policing expert has expressed his concern at the state of policing provision in Frome and the inevitable further impact on the town when the station closes.

Bob  Ashford, a Frome criminal justice consultant, has voiced his concerns to the Frome Times saying that in recent years Frome has already seen the closure of its police cells and magistrates’ courts and with the closure of the police station imminent and with no  clear plans in place for a new one, he believes it is worrying times for the town.

His concerns follows on from statistics released from the Home Office last week which show Avon and Somerset Constabulary which covers Frome has seen a fall in the number of police officers due to budget cuts of 477 since the last election and a fall in PCSOs of 75 over the same period. The last year alone has also seen a drop of 49 in the number of Special Constables in the area.

The police station closure would see officers no longer starting their tour of duty in Frome but likely to be from a police hub – probably in Bath – before commuting to Frome during their duty and returning to the hub at the end of their shift.

Already due to the recent cell closure in Frome, officers who have made an arrest have to commute to Bath as that is the nearest custody suite.  The hub system has already been introduced in Wiltshire where some officers can spend over an hour each shift just commuting to the area they are covering following the closure of smaller town police stations.

Bob Ashford said, “The closure of the Frome police cells has led to valuable police time being spent transporting people arrested to Bath from Frome. The closure of the courts has meant that defendants, witnesses and victims now have to travel to Yeovil, often using the same meagre public transport with all the problems and dangers that creates in possible contact with each other. This also creates additional costs and time to defence solicitors and victims’ organisations in the town in being able to offer an adequate and responsive service. It’s easy to believe that as crime figures are falling we don’t need to spend as much on crime and policing. The reality though is that bringing crime figures down is like turning around a super- tanker – it takes time and investment. Take that investment away and the figures will ultimately start to rise.

“The real concern I have is that towns like Frome, having already been hit by cell and court closures, will be disproportionately hit by cuts in Police and PCSOs and this will ultimately impact on community and personal safety. The concern over the closure of the present police station and the lack of a clear response on alternative proposals is, I fear, a further symptom of the urbanisation and centralism of policing in our force area.”

A former Wiltshire PCSO who worked for the force during the changes said, “In terms of the number of police officers seen in the small towns, this was cut by a third overnight when the smaller stations were closed. Officer numbers were cut from the smaller towns and asked to cover a wider area.

“This meant police staff were often left dealing with incidents in the towns, with police officers arriving after, due to the distances they often had to be travelling from.”

Avon & Somerset Police failed to respond when asked about Frome’s police station closing.