Cuts will make Crawley police ‘vulnerable’

John Wright MBE
John Wright MBE

The head of Crawley Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) said police cuts in the town were ‘ridiculous’.

John Wright MBE said budget cuts would make the town’s force ‘vulnerable’ and worsen people’s security in major incidents such as a terrorist attack.

One thousand police jobs are set to go as Sussex Police attempts to cut £56million from its budget by 2020. The cuts follow £50million of savings which have been made over the past five years as part of the Serving Sussex 2015 programme.

Mr Wright, 64, of Rusper Road, Ifield, who has been chairman of Crawley NHW for 15 years, said central government cuts were making Crawley police ‘very vulnerable’ and would worsen townpeople’s security in major incidents such as terrorism.

He said: “I would personally turn around and say you [the Government] created the situation - if we had the money we could do something better.

“It’s just ridiculous.”

Mr Wright said he had no concerns over the recent extension to Crawley District Commander Chief Inspector Dave Padwick’s patch.

A police spokesman said the top jobs at Crawley and Mid Sussex Police had been merged to cut costs and respond to ‘challenges faced by policing both locally and nationally’.

Mr Wright said: “Knowing David and Inspector Sue Neilson they are a very strong team and they would do whatever is necessary to get the results.

“Yes, there are going to be problems, nobody’s perfect, but because of the police cuts.”

Sussex Police has been considering major changes to the role of Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) as the force prepares to cut the non-warranted officers by nearly a third.

Under the plans the role of PCSOs will have an increased focus on ‘prevention and problem solving’, rather than on reassuring the public, a spokesman said.

Mr Wright said it was ‘sad’ cuts would see a lack of PCSOs on the beat in Crawley.

Neighbourhood Watch planned to help by increasing its membership.

It aimed to carry out more events in town to raise public awareness of crime prevention in 2016.

He added NHW volunteers could help police by being an ‘un-uniformed presence’ in Crawley.

Crawley NHW membership was increasing but lacked support in Tilgate, West Green and Ifield.

Mr Wright, who is also chairman of NHW Sussex, said the groups improved community cohesion.

Members spread police appeals by word of mouth more effectively.

He added: “I would say we are the fourth major service.”

Crawley NHW members were the first in Sussex to man phones at the town’s police station.

Mr Wright and his deputy chairman, Derek Pratt, started volunteering at the station in October 2014. They return calls to people who report crimes over the weekend in a bid to improve the force’s public relations and encouragemore crime to be reported. Mr Wright hoped the Crawley initiative would be rolled across Sussex.