Concerns over

COMMUNITY leaders have expressed concern about a lack of police officers on the beat in a busy town centre, sparking fears about rising crime levels and rowdy behaviour.

COMMUNITY leaders have expressed concern about a lack of police officers on the beat in a busy town centre, sparking fears about rising crime levels and rowdy behaviour.

Sudbury councillors demanded "urgent" answers about policing cover in the town and questioned whether there were any beat officers patrolling its streets at all.

They said they were concerned about crime and drunken behaviour in the town, particularly when pubs take advantage of new licensing laws and stay open later into the night.

Last night, police were unable to say exactly how many officers covered the town centre, but stressed beat bobbies were only a part of the policing family.

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At a meeting this week, councillors said a dearth of community officers has led to flashpoints and serious concern that crime in the town could increase.

They demanded urgent answers after questioning whether there were currently any beat officers covering the town centre.

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Speaking after the meeting, Sudbury mayor Lesley Ford Platt said: "This is a massive area of concern for local people and it has been for some time.

"At one time we had two or three beat officers and we had high visibility patrols which was quite impressive.

"But there is now an impression in town that we are just not seeing any officers out and about and this is an area of big concern.

"If a group of youngsters are seen, it can feel quite intimidating. But bobbies on the beat can act as a reassuring presence and often deter petty criminals."

"And now with the changes in licensing laws, there is a big worry that police will not be able to cope with the rowdiness associated with drinking in the early hours of the morning."

South Suffolk Conservative MP Tim Yeo said: "The probability is that the problem is going to become much more serious and a visible police presence is essential to ease the concerns of law abiding residents while also acting as a deterrent to anti social behaviour.

"I think residents have every reason to be concerned. Sudbury has had a low level drinking problem for some time and there are existing problems with people drinking late in pubs and clubs.

"There is no advantage to giving any of these extensions, they will simply cause more disruption as large groups are allowed to drink through the night and increase the risk of more anti social behaviour.

"I do sympathise with the police as they have had this burden thrown on them by this mistaken change in the law."

Police moved to reassure residents claiming that Sudbury was well-policed - and that the whole of west Suffolk was geared up to meet any challenges faced by the new licensing laws.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: "Police officers are on patrol in and around Sudbury 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"Community police officers are obviously an important part of the policing family but they are only one part of a team which includes patrol officers, special constables and CID and community support officers."

Supt Mark Cordell, operations manager, said: "We have also been working closely with licensees and as a result the vast majority that have applied for an extension have only requesting minimal changes to their current license.

"Those that have requested additional opening hours have also agreed to make necessary arrangements to improve their own security in terms of door staff or CCTV where appropriate.

"Police will continuously review and monitor the situation when the laws come into place in November."

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