The closure of Corby Police station has left the town of Corby as an ‘easy target’ abused by crime gangs who know they can get away with it, according to a leading civic official.
Cllr Mary Butcher says she forewarned senior officers of what would happen if the police station in Elizabeth Street shut, but her warnings were not heeded.
She says police cover in Corby is being sacrificed for more comprehensive cover in Wellingborough and Kettering and that the public is ‘at risk’.
Cllr Butcher, a stalwart of Corby Council’s crime and disorder committee, speaking at last week’s meeting at Corby Cube, said: “Why are we in this position?
“It’s the closure of Corby police station.
“We do not have the cover.
“It’s as basic as that.
“It’s taking 25-30 minutes for a response if you dial 999.
“Some issues are not being responded to at all and people are being left to deal with the problems themselves.”
Cllr Butcher spoke after it was revealed that nearly 30 pubs and businesses in Corby were targeted by criminals armed with crowbars in the past month.
Pubwatch Chairman Mick Willey has written to Chief Constable Nick Adderley to ask him to address a feeling among licensees that the police are doing nothing.
Cllr Butcher added: “I spoke to the crime commissioner about it and I asked him how many officers were being despatched to Corby for its night-time economy.
“And now we know what the reply was - we have not got the cover.
“It’s in Wellingborough and it’s in Kettering and it’s not in Corby.
“The reason the gangs are here is because they can get away with it.
“We need to write to the chief superintendent to ask what he is doing to combat this problem.
“We have to have action now.”
Local people say they have seen a steep rise in violent crime in the town.
In August a teenager was stabbed by a masked gang on the Danesholme Estate. Then a week later, Thomas Gravestock was murdered in a house in Butterwick Walk. Then last month a man was airlifted to hospital after being stabbed in nearby Kensington Walk.
Urging other council members to press the police for action, Cllr Butcher said: “The public are at risk.
“We don’t have the cover out there.
“Will this committee support us and get officers back on streets of Corby at night-time? It’s shocking.”
Corby police station fully closed at the end of December 2017 and a new enquiry desk opened at Corby Cube, with all other officers moving to the new Northern Accommodation Hub in Kettering.
Cllr Butcher added: “We were assured it would not affect policing in Corby.
“I’m sorry but it has affected it.
“These cars are not being dispatched in Corby.
“The chief constable said we’re a victim of our own success.
“Now these toerags are saying that Corby is an easy target and unless there’s changes things are going to get worse.
“Let’s be honest and put our cards on the table. We have to stop talking about it and send officers into the town to protect businesses and to protect the public.”
Cllr Bridget Watts, who runs the Good Bean coffee shop in Corby Old Village, said shop owners there were increasingly concerned about burglaries. She said: “Every morning, coming around the corner, I’m thinking ‘Is it me today?’
“They broke into the fishing tackle shop that has guns in it.”
Corby Neighbourhood Police Sergeant Jon Hodgson told the meeting: “The night-time economy has been an issue for us in terms of staff. The system changed in October last year and we don’t have the visible footprint that we used to have in the town.
“That’s being looked at.”
Northamptonshire Police have been concentrating on organised crime with Operation Viper, but councillors say it has left a gaping hole in regular policing in Corby, which is making the town a soft target for criminals.
Corby Safer Community Team Sergeant Jon Hodgson said: “We’ve been running Operation Viper to concentrate on gangs, firearms, class-A drugs supply, child sexual exploitation and cyber crime.
“These are really important issues and you can’t underestimate the effect they are having locally. These are the facts.
“Operation Viper is relevant to the increase in knife crime. We had somebody arrested in the town centre yesterday in possession of a knife. It’s not hitting that hardcore of people yet.
“While we’re not dealing with parking issues, actually taking our eyes off these things, it’s going to have a massive impact on the town. We do need to prioritise.
“But they do take a lot of my team. It’s a big impact.
“Over the past few months I’ve tried to manage expectations because we are prioritising Operation Viper. We need to protect our most vulnerable areas.”
He said he would welcome more police staff in Corby, adding: “I’d love to see more police in Corby earlier on in the evening to prevent the crime from happening rather than tackling it when it has already happened.
“In October last year there was a change in the service delivery model and now the officers are deployed on a risk basis.”
It is believed the current model is under review by Chief Constable Nick Adderley.