DORSET Police has come under fire for its handling of crime in Bournemouth town centre after leaders struggled to report a crime. 

Bournemouth West MP Sir Conor Burns and BCP Council leader Vikki Slade were walking through the town centre on Thursday, May 9, with business leaders. 

But as they were saying their goodbyes in the Square following a meeting, they saw a live drug deal happen in front of them and went to phone 999 to report the crime happening 20ft in front of them. 

However, the group was left unimpressed when call handler told them 999 is for “life or death” and told them to contact 101 instead.

Bournemouth Echo: The pair witnessed a live drug deal in the SquareThe pair witnessed a live drug deal in the Square

Council leader Vikki Slade said fixing policing in the town centre is the “final piece in the jigsaw”. 

She said: “We were in the Square saying goodbye, there were a couple of street drinkers, and then we witnessed what appears to be a very visible drug deal. 

“I immediately phoned 999 because it is my understanding that if a crime is in progress and the alleged offender is present, you phone them. 

“But the call handler told me that 999 is for life or death only and transferred me over to 101, who later phoned back 90 minutes later and I told them what had happened.” 

Cllr Slade said she and Sir Conor were both “shell shocked” at what had happened with the police and the apart lack of interest from the call handlers. 

“We've worked really hard with the DfT on all these brilliant new CCTV cameras at our bus stops, that are already providing enough evidence, really good quality, HD, eye level CCTV that helps the police do their job,” she added. 

“The public would expect there to be that sense of the police being around [the Lower Gardens, Square, Old Christchurch Road, Westover Road, Commercial Road] so that they feel safe.” 

Sir Conor told the Echo he too was “shocked” at the response, adding: “There's no point reporting crime if the police don't respond to a crime. This is the big frustration.  

“We've got to be really clear: council, business, community can do so much, but the police are central to the town and now that these PCC elections are behind us, it's time for some straight talking. 

“The police response yesterday was indicative of a situation that that is not good enough and it has got to change.” 

Dorset Police said: "Dorset Police is aware of reports of drug-related activity in the Richmond Hill area of Bournemouth town centre, which were reported to us by members of BCP Council on Thursday 9 May 2024.

"On this occasion, an incident log was created by our 999 operator in which officers were deployed to the area and several individuals were detained and searched. We would always encourage members of the public to call 999 in the event of an emergency.

"Once the call has been assessed and if not requiring an immediate response, the caller may be directed to our call-back service whereby a non-emergency contact officer will record further details and provide suitable support. This process allows the 999 operator to become available should a more critical incident occur in which there is an immediate threat to the public, which will always be our main priority.

"On the topic of drug-related activity, we fully recognise the detrimental impact that this has on members of our community and we will continue to do all we can to tackle this behaviour.

"Targeting drug-related activity is an integral part of the Bournemouth Neighbour Policing Team’s (NPT) daily duties, with the objective to drive down these types of offences in our communities. We welcome reports from members of the public so we can build an intelligence picture across the town.

"This can be achieved via our Dorset Police website and should include such information as time, date, location and any other descriptive information regarding drug offences in the community. Our officers will take positive action on intelligence received, including targeted high-visibility patrols in areas of concern that have been reported to us. Drug dealing and drug-related offences will not be tolerated by Dorset Police."