Griggs's Town: Don't have nightmares

THERE have been times in the past when I probably haven t been as complimentary to our local police force as I might have been. As with most of my ramblings it was how I saw things from the sidelines. Rather than get upset, Adam Gallop, the Ely sector ins

THERE have been times in the past when I probably haven't been as complimentary to our local police force as I might have been. As with most of my ramblings it was how I saw things from the sidelines. Rather than get upset, Adam Gallop, the Ely sector inspector, invited me over to Ely Police Station to set the record straight.

I wasn't totally sure that Insp Gallop had forgiven my harsh words when one of the first ports of call on our whistle-stop tour of the station was the custody cells! Most of the accommodation is en-suite and the special needs of the drunk are catered for by the bed being much lower than in a normal cell so that falling out doesn't hurt too much.

Insp Gallop, who has been in post for two years, has two sergeants reporting to him who, in turn, work with eight police constables and eight Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). The sector is divided into the North Neighbourhood under Sgt Alan Savill, which includes Ely, Littleport, Sutton and all stations north, and the South Neighbourhood containing Soham, Burwell, Bottisham, Stretham and the East Cambridgeshire villages south of Newmarket, overseen by Sgt Nigel Leadbeater.

Our local officer in Soham and the surrounding villages is PC Kevin Humble, but changes are afoot. In March, Kevin will be joined briefly by PC Andy Day before transferring to the North Neighbourhood. In April a second officer will also be covering Soham in the form of Andy's wife, Anna. Each will be responsible for different areas of the town, but will obviously work as a team. In addition the Soham area has two PCSOs, Gaynor Foster and Kieran Moran who are each on duty for 40 hours a week.

As well as the feet on the beat, Soham is covered by a network of CCTV cameras. Insp Gallop pointed out that the effectiveness of the cameras depended on the camera pointing in the right direction at the right time and the type of recording being made. Overall they are an asset and are often able to verify or refute the claimed sequence of events in an incident. The fact that two people monitor the images from all the cameras in Cambridge, Ely and Soham means that everything that happens in every location cannot possibly be seen instantly.

Soham's PCSOs hold monthly surgeries when the mobile police station comes to town. Unfortunately these surgeries are possibly not as well publicised as they could be, but now that I know somebody in the force there is no reason that they can't be.

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We all know that statistics can prove anything, and statistics prove this, but the percentage of reported crime has gone down in the South Neighbourhood by 13.6. This could be because some crimes are not being reported. Let's face it, there is no point in suffering crime and then moaning if you haven't given the police a chance to sort it out. Yes, they may not be able to trace the criminal on this occasion, they are only doing their best, after all, but the more crimes that are reported the more intelligence they build up and the more likelihood there is of the perpetrator being apprehended in the long run. We are all, after all, on the same side, so if we work together we can give the morons who think they can beat us a nasty shock.

The police force league tables that were published last year showed Cambridgeshire to be in the bottom five in the country. We were told that this was because the figures were out-of-date. We were told the same last year when the force was in a similar position. Hence we were a little sceptical. Apparently this is changing. At the moment Cambs is 22nd out of 43 forces, not as good as we or they would like, but a vast improvement, and if the enthusiasm of Insp Gallop is carried through the whole force, an improvement that is likely to carry on.

Overall I was impressed by the professionalism of the police in Ely. Ideally, I would have liked to have been impressed by the people in the station in Soham, but, even though the population is growing, that seems to be a pipe dream, but perhaps not. Insp Gallop said that a "point of presence" would probably be established in Soham, a stumbling block at the moment being the availability of an essential computer link. Although officers have access to the hand-held Blackberry computers, not all services can be used on them, so a PC is essential.

There is little point in blaming the hard-working officers for the policy decisions of the people at the top; they can only do what they can do to the best of their ability with the resources that they are given.

To keep in touch with what is happening in our sector anyone can register with the E-cops" e-mail scheme which not only gives regular updates on what is happening, but also provides a monthly newsletter. To register go to signup/ecops.

If you have any observations or suggestions on policing in the area why not let the editor of the Ely Standard know, as I said before, we are all on the same side, so let's work together.