Exclusive Jodie Nesling
Only three dedicated beat police officers -tasked with patrolling a specific area – are assigned to Thanet despite the area recording the highest crime rate in the county, The Isle of Thanet News can reveal.
At a recent community meeting in Cliftonville one officer said: “There are three beat officers in Thanet, so if they are in Cliftonville together and Central Harbour is busy, it can be difficult, but we hope to be getting more.”
District Commander for Thanet, Chief Inspector Lara Connor, says other resources are available to bolster support. She said: “‘Thanet is served by several dedicated resources, including the beat officers, Local Policing Teams, the community policing team and the Police Community Support Officers who all carry out patrols, and will respond to calls in Thanet.
“Further support is provided by many other departments, according to the requirements of any incident reported.”
Ch Insp Connor also told a meeting of Ramsgate business owners in May that additional beat officers were to be drafted in for Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Margate and Cliftonville.
Concerned residents at the meeting told officers they often witness drug deals transacted in broad daylight, and while the advice is to call 999 if a crime is in action, the suspects were usually long gone before officers can arrive at the scene.
Recent violent incidents include a mass brawl on Margate Main Sands, and most recently at last month’s Broadstairs summer fireworks where fighting youths caused disruption and two teenagers were arrested.
According to the Kent Police website there are five Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) who are tasked with patrolling the 23 wards.
But while providing a valuable support service PCSOs retain limited powers, including the right to arrest a suspect.
An increased police presence on the streets is often seen as a crime deterrent and reassures the public especially when low level reported crime is not prioritised due to limited resources.
Chairman of Athelstan Road Tenant’s and Residents Association (ARTRA), Matt Shoul, says he has called 101 on numerous occasions following incidents in the street but they are yet to be dealt with. He said: “Two hours of drinking/shouting/shrieking/urinating in the street – on Athelstan Road – started at 10pm.
“Despite my two calls to 101 there was no police attendance – this atrocious ASB began around 10pm on July 27 and it continued until almost 1am.”
Last year Kent Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott announced plans to recruit a further 200 officers but savage budget cuts of £18m in 2010, and a further £10m this year, means resources are tight and the number of officers still remains at 500 less than nine years ago.
Figures released in December show that Thanet has the highest crime rate in the county. The crime rate for violent and sexual crimes was the highest in Kent.