Crimefighting service to be shutdown

A HI-TECH messaging service delivering live crime advice to Suffolk residents is to be suspended at the end of this week, it emerged last night.Nearly 25,000 people in Suffolk are signed up to Police Direct - a service providing residents with the latest information direct from police via text, voice message or email.

By Danielle Nuttall

A HI-TECH messaging service delivering live crime advice to Suffolk residents is to be suspended at the end of this week, it emerged last night.

Nearly 25,000 people in Suffolk are signed up to Police Direct - a service providing residents with the latest information direct from police via text, voice message or email.

But the free service will come to an abrupt halt on Saturday because the technology supporting the system is being shut down by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) for financial and contractual reasons.


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Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said he was “extremely disappointed” at the news last night and said the force had only been informed of the move three days before it was due to close.

“We are extremely disappointed that this innovative and popular service is being suspended - but it is for reasons beyond our control,” he said.

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“We are constantly looking at ways of improving our service to local people, which is why we chose to be the first force in the country to trial this new system.

“The system was developed in partnership with Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO). “But now that this technology is being withdrawn, the service cannot continue at this time.

“It is disappointing that we received official notification of this decision just three days before it is turned off - and no information about how long it might be suspended for.”

The technology was used to communicate crime information to the county's Neighbourhood Watch schemes, as well as the public, and also enabled residents to report crime on Suffolk police's website.

Both services will now suffer as a result of the shutdown.

Mr McWhirter said: “I feel really sad we are going to have to close it down.

“We have been put in a position where we had very little knowledge that it was going to happen.

“However, I would like to reassure people that we will be working to find a solution so that we can re-launch the service in the future.

“It will be a short gap but I feel very regretful there will be a gap at all. It's everything E-government stands for. It seems to be a set back to have it switched off.”

The messaging service was applauded last year after it snared Britain's most prolific church burglar.

Christopher Coulthard, 43, from Warwickshire, who made a 30-year career out of stealing from church collection boxes, was jailed for five years after admitting burglary at Ipswich Crown Court.

His arrest came after he was recognised by a man who was among thousands of Suffolk residents who had signed up to receive the mass text alerts by the constabulary.

Police Direct was introduced in West Suffolk in August 2005.

There were plans to roll it out countywide later this year, with a view to increasing membership to 50,000.

A recent survey of existing Police Direct subscribers showed 99% felt it was a useful service, while 90% felt better informed about policing in their area.

More than half of subscribers reported feeling safer.

Mr McWhirter said he had been assured by Peter Neyroud, head of the NPIA, he would do everything he could to support Suffolk Constabulary and help find a solution.

The Home Office were unable to comment last night.

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