Let po­lice de­liver a ser­vice re­quired

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - SPEAKER’SCORNER - Steve Lane, Wer­ring­ton First In­de­pen­dents

Head­line fig­ures from of­fi­cial Crime Data re­veal that the po­lice have seen an in­crease of re­ported crime over the last three years, and with even greater rises of vi­o­lent of­fences. The Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics said these fig­ures sug­gest the po­lice are deal­ing with a grow­ing vol­ume of crime and they judged it to be a gen­uine in­crease.

This news will no doubt add to the strain on ev­ery Chief Con­sta­ble’s bud­get plan­ning. The sys­tem is al­ready creak­ing un­der the pres­sure to meet ev­ery­one’s ex­pec­ta­tions fol­low­ing years of fund­ing cuts and de­pleted re­sources. So, a fore­cast that sug­gests a growth in ac­tual crime must lead them to pon­der how long it will be be­fore their force be­comes fi­nan­cially un­vi­able.

Since 2010, Home Of­fice fund­ing for po­lice forces in Eng­land and Wales has been sharply cut. Cou­pled with a re­cruit­ment freeze when leav­ing of­fi­cers were not re­placed, their num­bers have steadily dropped and is re­ported to be at its low­est since 1985. The Cam­bridgeshire po­lice num­bers are now at 1346, down from 1471 - an 8.5% fall in seven years, and is a disturbing trend.

It is time for an ur­gent and se­ri­ous de­bate with govern­ment. To start with, it must lis­ten to a po­lice fed­er­a­tion’s call for more of­fi­cers to be em­ployed to ease their work­load, and boost morale amongst bob­bies ex­hausted from what is re­quired of them. It seems in­cred­u­lous that Govern­ment ex­pects them to com­bat crim­i­nal­ity and tackle ter­ror­ists on the street, but then fails to pro­vide suf­fi­cient num­bers to carry that out. The cur­rent po­si­tion is un­sus­tain­able.

In stark con­trast with our own govern­ment, the Aus­tralian state of Vic­to­ria is putting more than 3100 ex­tra po­lice of­fi­cers on the streets, and giv­ing them the re­sources, equip­ment and sup­port they need. Their State Premier said that many in the com­mu­nity do not feel safe. “We have seen crime rise and we see the need to do more, not more of the same.”

I would cer­tainly echo that sen­ti­ment for the Peter­bor­ough pub­lic’s ex­pe­ri­ence and fear of crime.

Here, they tell Cam­bridgeshire Con­stab­u­lary they are be­com­ing more afraid to go into the city cen­tre at night be­cause they fear it is not safe. What they ask for is a pri­or­ity to de­liver a vis­i­ble po­lice pres­ence to ease that anx­i­ety.

But I sus­pect the abil­ity to meet these de­mands due to un­der-fund­ing are now at a stand­still, and I fear that se­nior of­fi­cers are be­ing left to carry the can for the Govern­ment. It is they who are left to ex­plain a change in op­er­a­tional pri­or­i­ties be­cause of po­lice re­form and bud­get pres­sures.

Un­for­tu­nately for the Chief Con­sta­ble, it is he that is tasked with pro­vid­ing an ef­fec­tive and im­proved crime man­age­ment but with less re­sources.

But, how­ever pru­dent that may be, the pub­lic will never ac­cept that bob­bies on the beat is not a fun­da­men­tal tool for ef­fec­tive polic­ing. The pri­or­i­ties for them are real and closer to home. They have seen crime rise and see the need for the po­lice to do more, not less. They need to see num­bers, not strat­egy.

I can briefly il­lus­trate this by re­lat­ing to an in­ci­dent in Lon­don’s Ox­ford Street many years ago, when I wit­nessed a hand­bag snatch out­side a de­part­ment store. Hear­ing the scream for help, and lit­er­ally within sec­onds, a uni­formed bobby ran from across the road to give chase and ac­tu­ally nabbed the thief. That con­sta­ble’s pres­ence meant one more crim­i­nal re­moved from the streets, and per­haps a sig­nal to those with a sim­i­lar in­tent.

It’s time for the Home Of­fice to treat our po­lice of­fi­cers with fair­ness and re­spect, and to al­low them to de­liver to the pub­lic a ser­vice it de­serves. In the mean­time, I raise my hat in grat­i­tude for all those who re­main true to their oath, and the com­mit­ment to serve.

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