North Wales Police change rural cover - chief constable Mark Polin

Police are changing the way they cover rural areas of north Wales after the chief constable accepted improvements could be made.

People in places such as Gwynedd have complained there are not enough officers on duty at times after a North Wales Police reorganisation last May.

But chief constable Mark Polin says most areas are getting a good service.

He also called on people to help by not dialling 999 for things which are nothing to do with the police.

The reorganisation was in May last year, partly in order to save £15m over four years.

Mr Polin said: "Let's be clear here, in terms of spreading ourselves thinly. We've lost 131 officers as of today, and 112 police staff.

"So are we thinner than we were? Yes we are. Are we doing our very best to maintain the services that we were previously? Yes we are."

Last week, the Police Federation, which represents officers, said it was concerned that the reorganisation meant some rural areas "were not getting the policing they'd expect."

Politicians also said they were worried that the police did not have enough officers available to cover rural areas like Tywyn and Pwllheli in Gwynedd.

But Mr Polin said: "I think we would agree that we can do better in some areas. But this is about perception, and what people think is going on, rather than what is actually going on.

"Comment was made that response times have fallen off. They haven't, because we've looked. They are the same, if not better, than they were before the reorganisation.


"If there is a concern, as there clearly is, we're keen to respond to that effectively."

From 1 February, three of the force's superintendents have had their roles changed. They will each take responsibility for an area of north Wales.

Image caption Mark Police said people should only call 999 when they need an emergency police response

Mr Polin says they will have the flexibility to decide how many officers to allocate to emergency response work, investigations and community work.

"One of the first tasks of area superintendents will be to look at policing for the areas and put forward proposals to improve local policing, with the same level of resources, by the end of February.

"It was also agreed that there will be some flexibility around shifts to ensure that local deployment is best matched to meet local demand.

'Lives at risk'

The chief constable also called on people in north Wales to help the police work by making sure they only called 999 for genuine emergencies.

He said: "Last week a 999 call came in from someone wanting directions to a KFC; another 999 call was a request for the telephone number for the local council as the caller had lost their dog.

"Perhaps the best of all was the 999 call from a very irate gentleman who wanted to report that his home phone line had been cut off for two days and that their service provider had failed to fix the problem as promised.

"We are not a restaurant guide, a telephone directory or Ofcom and, above all else, using the 999 line in this way could put other people at risk."

He also asked people to "look after your own and other people's property. Over recent weeks in one area alone there were 17 burglaries in houses which were left insecure."

Former Gloucestershire chief constable Dr Tim Brain, an honorary senior research fellow at Cardiff University, said Mr Polin and other chief officers were "facing difficult circumstances" due to "massive cuts".

"It is about making the butter spread more thinly across the bread."

He told BBC Radio Wales politicians could help police forces deal with the funding cuts by putting pressure on Welsh government and the UK government to free up money.

"I don't hear many politicians lining up to do that," said Dr Brain, who worked with Mr Polin at the Gloucestershire force.

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