Police chief addresses fears over rural response times

Chichester District Commander Justin Burtenshaw.  Picture by Louise Adams C140071-15 Chi Justin Burtenshaw ENGSUS00120140116130248
Chichester District Commander Justin Burtenshaw. Picture by Louise Adams C140071-15 Chi Justin Burtenshaw ENGSUS00120140116130248

Concerns over police response times and communication were voiced by residents at a meeting of Petworth Town Council on Monday.

Police commander for Chichester district, Justin Burtenshaw, sought to reassure residents the force would be readily accessible in the area following changes to PCSO roles.

Plans for Petworth police station were well received, but there were complaints about the 101 phone service and calls for national policing to allow better coverage near the county border.

One resident claimed an emergency call to report intruders had taken 35 minutes for police to attend.

The Petworth man said he had lost confidence in the force after the ‘totally inadequate’ response.

Commander Burtenshaw said he could not comment on specific incidents without examining records, but emphasised a police car was kept allocated to cover the north of the district unless urgent support was needed elsewhere.

“We can only get to somewhere as quickly as we can get to it in a vehicle, and if we are a distance away, we will get there safely,” he said.

“Our target is to get there within 15 minutes.”

He added that Sussex Police was obliged to send its own resources to call outs before asking Surrey forces to assist.

Other issues addressed at the meeting included worries over vehicle related offences and the protocol for reporting traveller sites.

Plans for a 24-hour police phone outside a new station site at Petworth library were welcomed as part of a bid to increase engagement in the community.

Similar plans to move police facilities in Midhurst to a more communal location are in progress, although it is unlikely the station services will move to the Grange, commander Burtenshaw added.

Speaking towards the end of the meeting, the commander offered to take a representative from the group out on patrol.

“We are working tirelessly to make this place safer,” he said. “This is an amazing place to live and you make it an amazing place to live, and we’re part of that community.”