600 extra cops will patrol Essex

AN extra 600 police officers could take to the streets of Essex after the county's force announced plans to significantly increase its numbers.

Elliot Furniss

AN extra 600 police officers could take to the streets of Essex after the county's force announced plans to significantly increase its numbers.

Robert Chambers, chairman of the Essex Police Authority, said he hoped to see the number of sworn officers rise from about 3,450 to a target of 4,000 within the next three to five years.

Mr Chambers said that through an ongoing programme of efficiency savings, which has already proved a success in the past 18months, the force could fund the £30million initiative.

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He said: “At the moment, it's only a proposal. By the end of June we will hopefully have made a decision. It's about putting more bobbies on the beat and catching more criminals.

“We're finding the money and I think we're the only police force in the country that is increasing its numbers substantially. We can do it thanks to good financial management and looking at the way we do things.”

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On raising the money to afford the new plans, he said it was based on “doing business differently” and continuing a process of cutting costs that had raised about £5million since February last year.

He added: “We would like to front-end lead it and get as many as we can as quickly as we can. Crime is going down year on year and the number of crimes is actually going down.

“There is something like 119,000 (crimes) in the county a year and we believe it's more than possible to get that below 100,000.”

Mr Chambers also announced plans to recruit an extra 370 special officers to the force by 2010, bringing the total up to 1,000 volunteer officers supporting the full-time team.

North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin said it was “excellent news” that the force would be boosted with up to 600 more sworn officers and was sure they would help tackle low-level crime, something that many of his constituents had spoken to him about.

He said: “I think we have got the best chief constable we have had for a very long time. He is outstanding and this is the kind of exercise to push more resources to the frontline that we need.

“People want for police to be more visible in places where there is regular trouble and they want police to be more responsive when they call them to report crime.”

A spokesman for Essex Police said the force was in the process of discussing some “exciting opportunities” for the policing in the county as part of a future strategy.

He said: “Included in this discussion is the numbers of frontline police officers we would like to see to achieve our vision of being the safest place in the country.

“The details of the plan are still being finalised and will be submitted to the Finance and Audit Committee on June 30.”

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