Penistone library could become a new contact point between police and the community as part of plans to boost the presence of the South Yorkshire force in the district’s rural communities.
The town’s police station lost its public counter as part of austerity cuts and a long-held ambition to re-open it using volunteers has been abandoned because of insurmountable problems in having civilian volunteers working at an active police building.
But now Coun Dave Griffin – who two years ago found around 40 people willing to volunteer their time to staff a public access point for police – is looking for an alternative venue, outside police premises but still in a public building.
He has written to the librarian in Penistone to ask if space could be made available at the High Street building, which is used for a range of public purposes.
If that plan succeeds, it will form part of a move towards improved policing in the district, with South Yorkshire Police planning to put a second police constable into the area, to work alongside the existing officer and two PCSOs already based there.
They are supported by a neighbourhood policing team based at Kendray and Coun Griffin has been making a case to have a new rural neighbourhood team operating from Penistone police station, to focus specifically on rural issues.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings attended a public community safety meeting in the town, where Coun Griffin also suggested a small scale but more frequent version of Operation Duxford, where the force gathers resources from a wide area for a day of action in a specific district.
In Penistone, they have proved successful and Dr Billings said he believed ‘mini Duxfords’ for the area were a positive suggestion.
He also told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “In a sense, they are heading towards a rural neighbourhood team. The station seems to be used quite a bit by police.
“We have had Operation Duxfords, which in my view have been very successful and very well received.
“What I will do with the Chief Constable is talk about the future, mini Duxfords, which I think would be very well received.”
Coun Griffin said his next priority would be to press for a police sergeant to head policing operations in Penistone, when resources became available.
He said the public meeting had shown public dissatisfaction with some elements of policing: “It was obvious that farmers particularly didn’t feel enough progress had been made on understanding where farms are, around the county line.
“That has not progressed fast enough, I suspect because of the urban responsibilities of the sergeant. A rural sergeant would move that on quicker and start to restore trust in police.
“At the same time, I acknowledge getting a second constable is a big step forwards,” he said.
Dr Billings will also attend another public meeting in Penistone, which has been organised through Penistone Area Council, the body made up of the district’s six Barnsley councillors.
That will take place on Thursday May 16, from 6.30pm at Penistone Grammar School.