Saturday, December 30, 2006

Policing in Darlington

Time for a new poll, and with crime and anti-social behaviour high on the list of people's priorities, time to consider Durham Constabulary's recent reforms which stripped Darlington of its status as a Basic Command Unit.

Sounds trivial? Well the result in 2004 was to amalgamate the Borough's policing units with those across south Durham. That's why now if you have a problem, you no longer ring the Police Station on St. Cuthbert's Way, but instead are put through to a call centre in Bishop Auckland. Residents across Darlington have recounted stories of their phone calls to this number going unanswered. Darlington is the only unitary authority in the North East which doesn't have its own BCU.

So were the Police right to pool resources across South Durham? Or should decisions about policing in Darlington be taken closer to the people whose lives are affected by them? Have your say.


Anonymous said...

Nick, I just came across your blog. Here in Waterford in Ireland the tendency is to centralise policing rather than to bring it closer to the people through strengthend community policing or police substations. We are currently trying to establish a police substation in my own area so I was interested in your own comments about your experience in this area.

ian white said...

Hi Nick

I think the poll says it all 100%


Ian White said...

I think Darlington should revert to calling St Cuhtberts way (or similar place) you wouldnt want an ambulance to come from that far away in an emergency (I know some do) its a matter of response time.
The Police as it is do a thankless task theres no need for this "set up" to make the foot soldiers look bad for slow response's.

Darlington Councillor said...

Many thanks for posting Seamus - as in Eire the trends have all been about centralisation when what the public want is more local responsiveness and accountability. Fortunately, a series of mergers of County forces was scuppered earlier this year, although given the level of support in the Home Office and amongst certain Chief Constables, I'm sure we'll see the proposals back again in the future, perhaps in a modified and piecemeal form.

Ian - unfortunately if you try ringing the Police on 467681 you get "number not recognised" which is a sorry state of affairs as I'm sure a lot of people in town still have the number in their address books. People mostly have to ring the Police infrequently, so it might have been more sensible to have a recorded message with the new Bishop Auckland number on it.

Notionally, response times shouldn't be affected as the Police officers themselves are still in the town. I've had story after story related to me by residents of the Police not turning up, however. You're absolutely right - the officers themselves shouldn't take the blame for the situation which is wholly the responsibility of management.

Two senior officers addressed Council in the summer promising fresh action to deal with the problems at the call centre - unfortunately for their credibility we'd heard similar promises before.

The sensible approach would be to disaggregate Darlington once more. Decision-making works better when the major public services are working to the same geographical boundaries. Recently Alan Milburn campaigned hard and successfully with others to ensure that this was true of the health trust. The Police should do the same.

Anonymous said...


Happy New Year.

Has there been any thoughts given to breaking away from Durham and joining up with Cleveland to form a Tees Valley Police Force? The noises from Durham about cutting back on front line police officers and replacing them with community support officers is alarming. Cleveland seem to have resolved their financial problems due to the excellent leadership of Chief Constable Sean Price and they are actually increasing police officer numbers.

I don't suppose the possibility of losing its largest town and a large slice of its income would go down well in Durham, but if we in Darlington can get a better service from Cleveland and it will not cost the taxpayers of Darlington substantially more than staying with Durham then it must be worth considering.

Sorry about the whitewash down under.