THE chief constable has defended his decision to shut Peacehaven police station.

Giles York’s comments come in the wake of a residents’ petition which calls on the Government to reinstate the building after a surge in crime.

But, in an exclusive interview with The Argus, Mr York insisted it was not a mistake to close the station and that his officers’ time was better spent on the streets.

This follows Sussex Police’s decision to launch Operation Blitz to tackle antisocial behaviour in the town.

It will see officers out on patrol on Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm to midnight.

In a meeting last week with police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne, Mr York also told how a front desk set up in Peacehaven’s Meridien Centre in the wake of the closure would be moved to a better location.

Mr York said he wanted to find an “immediate” and “short-term solution” to the town’s problems, adding: “[The residents’] concerns are important to me.”

He said the town’s neighbourhood team was “alive” to the worries and “engaged” with the public and businesses while the force continued to work with the town council.

When asked if setting up a front desk in the town suggested a police station was still needed, he said: “I don’t think it was a mistake to shut the police station.”

He added a building may be seen as reassuring but added: “The aim is to get officers out on the ground.”

There was a 17 per cent rise in crime, including a 57 per cent climb in antisocial behaviour, since the closure of the town’s police station in September last year.

The Bring Back Our Police Station petition was sent to Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Brighton Kemptown, to raise in Parliament and so far more than 670 people have signed it.

The force has insisted the rise in crime is not linked to the station’s closure.

As part of its changes to neighbourhood policing, the force has given officers smart phones with access to local and national systems so they can work out of the office, filing crime reports, witness statements and documenting intelligence.

The force claims this makes officers more accessible to the public and gives them quick access to information.

When asked if he would reconsider the changes to neighbourhood policing teams if they were not effective, he said the plan was working “really well” and he was really pleased with progress.

The force has also now produced contact cards for each district division in a bid to tell people the different ways they can get in contact.

During the meeting with Mrs Bourne, he had billed the move from allocating a dedicated “local face” to a team of staff as a “compromise” for residents. But the force has since insisted the changes give residents access to more officers to help them tackle crime in their area.

Mr York’s interview with this newspaper follows an article in the Mail on Sunday in his role on the National Police Chiefs’ Council, in which he said there was no point in officers visiting victims of crime in person and it would be more convenient to email.

Asked if he anticipated the angry reaction to the article, he said he did not feel the report painted the “full picture” behind his comments and some of them may have been misunderstood, adding: “In my heart it’s about giving the public a better service because there is better choice.”

When told some victims of crime said they waited days to hear back from an online report, after receiving an automated message pledging contact within 24 hours, he said: “We need to be able to meet that expectation.”

He said online reporting was a nationally run system and urged people to continue using 101.

Mr York was also full of praise for the work police staff carry out in the force’s investigations and resolution centre – where some low-level crime is now solved over the phone.

He said their work helped solve 16,000 crimes in this manner in a year, which helped meet the demand of rising crime before officer numbers were cut.

This meant officers did not need to be sent out in 42,000 cases.

He said: “We found an effective way of dealing with some crimes was over the phone.

“It meant it was saving officers from travelling around the country.”

He cited a letter from an elderly woman who had been struggling to deal with problems with a neighbour for years. But after six hours of back-and forth-phone calls from the call handler to both parties, the matter was resolved.

He told Mrs Bourne the woman wrote to personally thank him for the way in which the matter had been handled by his staff.

He said: “I was really pleased to learn this, it was a really effective way of dealing with it.”

When asked if he thought the problem could have been solved in less time if an officer had met the pair face to face, he said he did not know.

Another challenge he is facing is due to the recent one per cent pay award and bonus offered to officers by the Government.

The force has been given no extra funding to honour this so-called pay rise and the cost equates to paying for 30 officers.

Mr York said: “Police officer salaries are decided nationally, I have no control over them.

“That’s going to cost me between one and one and half million pounds to meet the pay increase.

“We will have to use money from the reserves to fund this – but those reserves can only be spent once.”

The force still faces having to make savings of £24 million over the next four years and continues to have to fight rising crime with fewer staff.


THE police and crime commissioner has voiced frustration that a growing demand on policing has swallowed up plans put in place to make more frontline officers available to respond to incidents.

Katy Bourne asked Sussex Police to get police staff to solve more low level crime over the phone in a bid to free up officers to attend more severe offences.

Entitled the investigations and resolution centre, Chief Constable Giles York said in its first year it helped solve 16,000 crimes by phone and saved officer call-outs in 42,000 cases. But, now the resource is being used to continue to cope with demand because of the rising amount of reported crime and fewer officers left to tackle the offences.

Speaking to The Argus, Mrs Bourne said: “The idea was for it to free up more frontline officers. My frustration is that the resolution centre has come at a time when there’s an increase in demand on policing nationally at the same time as budgets reducing.”

She said, in effect, funding available to forces has been going down.

During her performance and accountability meeting with Mr York on Friday, she questioned why more crimes were going unsolved and officers were arresting fewer people. He said the falling number of “solved rates” was something that had not been anticipated and it would be reviewed, but that arrest and prosecution was not always the answer.

Mrs Bourne wants this to be independently investigated when the force is reviewed next month, adding: “It is an area I would like Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to look at to find out what is really going on.”

She asked if there was a link between officers being given “autonomy” to make their own decisions on how cases are progressed and the force making fewer arrests. But Mr York said falling arrest numbers was a national trend since changes in the law and more use of community resolutions. When asked if this was a problem, Mrs Bourne said: “At the moment, we don’t know, but we will find out. We will understand it more once it is looked at. This is the whole point of these accountability meetings – to uncover areas where the police can go back and review.”

She questioned why the length of time officers spend on investigations had been shorted from 31 days to 21 days, to which Mr York responded: “That’s a very deliberate thing because we were investigating things which were never going to go anywhere. You could follow the line of enquiry but it’s not going to solve the crime for you.”

He said the force is trying to use the experience of supervisors and officers to make sometimes “really hard judgments”, adding: “We could keep investigating but not going to find a solution. Going to court is not always the best outcome.”

Asked if she thought officers were not making arrests in order to avoid a longer, more involved investigation, she said: “It would give me great concern if that was the case.”

She said she would be reviewing all the force’s reserve funds in the wake of continually stretched budget to see if there are areas which could be invested in.

The Conservative commissioner said the Government was in a “very difficult position” with so many demands placed upon it which would make it difficult for it to stump up extra funding.

When she questioned Mr York on how the force was making sure the public felt safe, he said armed officers in the wake of terrorist attacks were reassuring but visibility was not necessarily “a panacea” for everything. He admitted the force had “struggled” in the last year with communicating changes but insisted it was not “shutting down” traditional methods of policing and they were committed to keeping police stations and phone lines open, to which Mrs Bourne responded it was important those changes publicly, on camera in the meeting.


POLICE and crime commissioner has stood by her decision to keep the public from attending meetings where she scrutinises the Chief Constable.

Katy Bourne's monthly performance and accountability meetings with Giles York are webcast live and are available to watch back at any time. But the public and press are not permitted to attend the discussions at her offices in Sackville House, Brooks Close, Lewes.

Friday's meeting was fraught with technical problems which meant the live stream had to be shut down before the discussions were adjourned. Mrs Bourne warned viewers webcast new cameras and microphones were in use and could mean proceedings became "muddled".

The webcast attracts an average of 125 viewings a time.

Some other police and crime commissioners host similar meetings in public and residents are able to submit questions to the Chief Constable in advance.

When asked if opening up the meeting would attract more people to take an interest, Mrs Bourne said she was happy with the viewing figures, insisted the meeting was accessible because it could be watched back online at any time and said hosting a public meeting would cost more.

She said she would not allow reporters to attend because she wanted to "preserve the gravitas and professionalism of the meeting" and did not explain why this should have an effect.

The Argus was invited to interview both Mrs Bourne and Mr York about the meeting immediately after it took place.

The reporter attended her offices to do this but was banned from sitting in the meeting, and was instead told to watch the live stream from an office across the corridor.

When this stopped because of technical problems, the reporter asked to go into the meeting room to hear the remaining discussions before carrying out the related interviews.

The commissioner refused and press officers told the reporter "nothing major" would be discussed in the final minutes hidden from camera.

They said written minutes would be provided in due course but, at the time of going to press, these had not yet been published.