Following on from the very good news that Kent can recruit up to 200 extra police officers comes the equally welcome announcement that Ashford Police Station has been saved. There had been speculation for years that the building, which certainly needs a complete overhaul would be sold with the threat of the police moving away.
Instead, after much behind-the-scenes lobbying from a number of local bodies (including me) we hear that the Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, will spend millions of pounds upgrading the station in Tufton Street.
Anyone who has visited it in recent years will know that it certainly needs work. It was built in 1968, and rather frighteningly there have been reports of lumps of concrete falling off since 2006. Happily no one has been hurt. But as well as having a safer building we will know for the foreseeable future that the police’s commitment to Ashford Town Centre has been maintained.
I agree with the Chief Constable, Alan Pughsley, when he says that staying at Tufton Street is the most pragmatic option available. This is a station which many members of the public visit regularly and which therefore is a genuine hub for gathering intelligence and information. Of course buildings don’t fight crime, police officers do, but the location of those officers can be vital.
After a few difficult years, the reputation and performance of Kent Police has improved markedly. There are annual figures produced for each force nationally by the police inspectorate, and these show Kent to be at or near the top of performance tables in all the key measures. Everyone involved should get great credit for this.
Nevertheless crime fighting is an activity which never comes to an end, and I have been drawing to the PCC’s attention what feels like an upsurge in rural crime. This covers a multitude of undesirable activities, including hare coursing, fly tipping and break-ins to steal farm machinery, all of which are inevitably difficult to police.
It is important to remember than by most standards we live in a peaceful part of a very law-abiding country. But this does not make the experience of being a victim of crime any less traumatic, so it remains vital that we have the best policing available. We now know that the biggest local symbol of that policing will remain in the town centre.