POLICING is set to be beefed up and more closed circuit cameras rolled out ahead of next month's Appleby Horse Fair.

Fresh reassurances about how the police are to manage the four-day event have been made by Cumbria's Chief Constable as gypsies and travellers gear up to make their annual pilgrimage to the Eden town.

One of the operational changes is the deployment of extra staff at the county's police headquarters in Penrith to answer the non-emergency 101 line. The service's lack of staffing bore the brunt of residents’ complaints last year. A number of “engagement” meetings with the public are also planned.

Michelle Skeer spelled out the changes at a crime commissioner's meeting at force headquarters after being asked to provide an update on plans.

The changes follow a series of flashpoints in 2018 with the force receiving stinging criticism over how it policed the run-up to the fair, particularly in Kirkby Lonsdale, Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen.

Following a post-fair review by police chiefs, eight “adjustments” were made for the 2019 event, which starts on Thursday, June 6.

A statement to the meeting read: “This year there will be sufficient staff to deal with any issues encountered in phase one (when gypsies and travellers arrive in the area). We will ensure that staff are briefed by sergeants and inspectors to role and expectations. Staff will be highly visible and engaging with the public and stakeholders.”

It added: “The constabulary wants an enjoyable fair for all this year, working with key stakeholders, partners and local residents to achieve this. The fair is our largest policing event and there will be issues associated with such a large event involving tens of thousands of people. However, we have structures and processes in place that will allow us to be agile and flexible to respond quickly to emerging issues.”

Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “What I am keen to do is to ensure that if there are policing issues, the public is able to make those early and quickly. We don’t want things to fester. We want the police to have the opportunity to deal with issues before they become a problem. That means everyone working together, public and agencies. 

“That’s the best way of minimising the inconvenience as much as possible.”

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This year, the senior policeman in charge will be the constabulary’s second highest-ranking officer – Mark Webster, the newly-appointed deputy chief constable and a former firearms commander for the National Crime Agency.

The  gold commander will be Barrow temporary chief Supt Rob O’Connor,  backed by temporary Supt Matt Pearman.