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Police move to soothe fears of villagers

PUBLISHED: 05:00 04 November 2001 | UPDATED: 15:19 03 March 2010

POLICE chiefs moved to reassure villagers worried about rural crime - and unveiled a new initiative to deter criminals.

Suffolk police told the county's rural dwellers they were "in safe hands" as a fresh debate surfaced across the nation over the actions of East Anglian farmer Tony Martin.

POLICE chiefs moved to reassure villagers worried about rural crime – and unveiled a new initiative to deter criminals.

Suffolk police told the county's rural dwellers they were "in safe hands" as a fresh debate surfaced across the nation over the actions of East Anglian farmer Tony Martin.

The 56-year-old saw his life sentence cut to five years at the Court of Appeal this week after judges quashed his murder conviction for shooting dead a teenage burglar outside his remote farmhouse in Norfolk.

Publicity generated by the case has heightened the fear of crime felt by people living in rural areas of the county, but Suffolk police insisted they were meeting incident response times – and were embarking on new measures to make residents feel even safer in their homes.

Chief Superintendent Michael Green revealed the force's helicopter could be used in a more pro-active role to fight crime.

"There have already been pro-active flights in Ipswich, but we are looking at extending its role to other parts of the county, including rural areas, where the need is established," he said.

"The average time the helicopter arrives at incidents is six minutes – it is of significant value. We are now keen to use it in a more pro-active role and feel those air operations can have a substantial effect on the policing of communities, including making residents feel safe."

He added the helicopter had assisted with 1,259 tasks in its first year of operation, including 197 burglaries, and has helped in the arrest of 16 burglars. It covers one square mile of land in 12 minutes, which would occupy an estimated 450 hours of "normal" policing.

Mr Green, who is head of operations at Suffolk Constabulary, also pointed to the latest response times as evidence of the force's ability to deal with urgent situations.

Police are expected to arrive within 15 minutes at 92% of incidents that required an immediate response – the current response rate in Suffolk is 93.6%.

"Our targets are being met and we are delivering a comprehensive service, despite increasing demand," said Mr Green.

"Of course, we could do with more officers and if I had 100 more, I could deploy them. But we still have an effective response team, with specialist back-up, to deal with incidents rapidly."

Mr Green urged Suffolk residents not to put their own safety at risk by their actions dealing with incidents such as burglaries and told them instead to dial 999 immediately.

"Their safety is paramount and I would prefer they kept at a distance and took notes. Everyone has the right to defend their person and their property, but they should let the professionals deal with it," he said.

"The force has a responsibility to support those who are vulnerable and live in isolated areas and we have put a great deal of thought into how we apportion our resources.

"Our message is that the people of Suffolk live in one of the safest counties in the country - and we aim to keep it that way. If people call on us, they will receive an extremely prompt and efficient service."

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