A PENSIONER has criticised Hampshire Constabulary for introducing a charge to a scheme in which the police respond to intruder alarms.

Nicholas Crace received a letter from Kathy Hawkes, systems and business support supervisor, informing him that, as of July 1, he now needs to pay £24 a year for police to respond to his alarm.

The letter said: “For many years, Hampshire Constabulary has provided a free service to ensure peace of mind to both business and domestic residents by recording keyholder details.

“We have developed a new and improved service and are inviting new or existing record holders to subscribe.”

Hampshire Constabulary claims the new scheme will “save time and inconvenience, and may reduce damage to your property,” adding: “The scheme enables the building to be accessed and secured by a keyholder, avoiding further loss, cost or injury.”

But 85-year-old Mr Crace, from Overton, who made national headlines in 2012 for becoming the oldest altruistic kidney donor, believes the charge is not justified.

He said: “This service, previously free of charge, consists of Hampshire Constabulary, on being informed of the alarm sounding on the premises, attempting to contact the owner or one of his nominated keyholders by telephone. That’s it. Five minutes at most, all for another £24 a year.”

He added: “Overton lost its popular and effective PC Richard Baldwin earlier in the year. He was moved to other duties, being replaced with a cheaper PCSO, with fewer powers and less training.

“Villagers are being recruited by Hampshire Constabulary for its SpeedWatch project, where unpaid volunteers using a handheld speed gun will monitor and report speeding motorists in the village. This is a job properly carried out by a uniformed traffic patrol.

“Where will it stop? The rising cost of Hampshire Police seems in inverse proportion to the service they provide.”

Assistant Chief Constable David Pryde, who oversees the department that will be looking after the alarm scheme, said: “The current keyholder scheme is closing and those on it are being offered the opportunity to join our new enhanced service, which begins on July 1.

“Presently this service is provided free of charge, but it is running at a loss. We appreciate that people value the free keyholder scheme. However, it is no longer affordable in times of austerity. By making a small charge, we will provide an improved service which will be self-financing.

“Under the new system, members can provide the police with additional call-out numbers such as their preferred plumber or boarding-up company. In addition, we will also provide a window sticker, key fob recovery service and a pack of information about crime prevention and immobilise. The service is available to residents for just £24 a year, and £50 for commercial premises.”