A lack of officers on the streets has led to a loss of public confidence and lack of people reporting crimes, police chiefs have been warned. 

Councillors on Durham and Darlington’s Police and Crime Panel described a worrying cultural shift from the public, who now have little trust in local community policing. 

The meeting heard how people in the region feel they can't pick up the phone and ring the police due to dwindling officer numbers and slow response times. 

The concerns come as the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Joy Allen raised the policing precept by 5.1 per cent.

The Commissioner said the increase is vital to help maintain police officers at 1,368 and the 146 PCSOs at Durham Constabulary until at least April 2025. However, ​​Durham is still 144 officers short of the levels in 2010. 

Robbie Roddis, a former police officer from Crook, said the once-busy police station in the town has declined and officers are rarely seen in the area. 

“Where have these police officers gone? We don’t see them. I rarely see them at all now, and Crook was a once thriving town.”

Mr Roddis said windows at the town’s police station had recently been smashed and warned it is representative of the public’s trust in policing.

He added: “It’s quite the message to put out to the public, and suggests policing has gone and we’ve been abandoned by them.” 

And in Newton Aycliffe, residents are concerned that the relocation of the police station in the town will impact crime response rates. 

“I can’t remember the last time I saw a policeman on the beat,” said Cllr Ken Robson, of Aycliffe West. 

Darlington councillor Sajna Ali praised the impact uniform officers have on communities, but warned they are becoming a rarity.

She said: “Residents really appreciate the value of face-to-face contact. They are a huge asset to their communities.

“But people are losing faith in reporting incidents to the police. When you talk on the ground with the public they don’t see a police presence anymore or crimes are not solved quickly. We need to keep working together.” 

The Northern Echo: Chief Constable Rachel Bacon meeting the public in Crook, County DurhamChief Constable Rachel Bacon meeting the public in Crook, County Durham (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

Chief Constable Rachel Bacon, who is 10 weeks into the new role, said neighbourhood policing will be ‘at the heart’ of the force as part of a renewed focus on connecting with communities in County Durham and Darlington.

She told the panel: “We know that we haven’t got enough resources in neighbourhood policing at the moment. When you cut the number of cops we have in British policing and have to respond to 999 calls in an emergency when people need us, all forces have had to reduce their neighbourhood policing teams.

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“I absolutely agree that the investment, growth and redevelopment is vital to improving policing in neighbourhoods.”

Mrs Bacon added that the police presence in Newton Aycliffe will not be affected by the relocation. 

She added: “I am extremely positive and excited by the future of Durham Constabulary. The money is tough and the future looks hard but my purpose as Chief Constable is to relentlessly pursue criminals and provide a first class service to victims.”