Police commit more officers to patrol countryside but they will not be armed

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

Kent Police is to double the number of officers in rural areas from six to 12 although the force will not be giving them firearms.

Matthew Scott, Police and Crime Commissioner [PCC], said the county will not be following the lead of Devon & Cornwall Police in considering arming officers in rural areas.

Instead the PCC is pledging to make officers ‘more local, more available and have more of them,’ in his reforms to rural policing.

Currently there are just two officers covering rural areas around all of Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Maidstone and Sevenoaks full time.

But this number is set to double, as the police also implements methods to prevent crime and arm an extra 90 officers across Kent with Tasers.

Mr Scott is currently inviting rural residents to take part in a survey, the results of which will help shape policies decided by the National Rural Crime Network. He said 650 people had shared their views so far.

‘One of the things people want to see is more police presence in their communities,’ said the Conservative PCC.

‘Policing teams are doubling in size from six to 12 officers and we will also be introducing prevention kits.’

Mr Scott said this could include an increased use of SmartWater around sites that could be at risk of burglary.

This traceable liquid leaves a mark on anyone who touches it and can only be seen through ultraviolet light.

Police can respond to out-of-town crime by other means than by deploying their limited number of rural officers.

The force is currently recruiting for 100 extra PCs across the county, with around 25 to 30 set to work in West Kent. All 300 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) are also to be kept across the county.

Mr Scott said he would be communicating with rural communities over how to address key concerns of poaching and theft from businesses.

‘They want to see a visible presence and be able to get through to the police.

‘We want to recruit more call handlers. There are no plans to close any front counters.’

And on whether guns could be used by rural officers, Mr Scott said: ‘No. It would be inappropriate in our communities.

‘We are increasing the overall number of firearms officers to 100 and adding 90 extra officers to those using Tasers, to ensure every section has one.’

Rural residents have until June 10 to have their say in the survey.

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