The Folly of Withdrawing Police from the Front Line

Imagine how nice it must be to live in a quiet town where there is so little crime there’s nothing for the police to do, where you can walk about town safe from the threat of mugging, and feel secure at home safe from the danger of burglary. Imagine then the powers-that-be use that as a pretext to get rid of the local bobby and as a direct result, crime surges because criminals realise they can get away with anything now. There’s no-one to deter crime, and those who must respond are too far away.

That’s the nightmare scenario being presented to us by a policy of closing local police stations across England. Something like a third of them have already closed or are scheduled to close despite the concerns of residents’ groups because they are being “under utilised.” And in an attempt to further justify the policy, Paul Scarrott, Assistant Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police has said, “We recognise that people now prefer to use other ways to contact the police rather than turning up at a station.”

What an ingenuous piece of claptrap that is. The only reason people ever would have ‘preferred’ turning up at a police station to report a crime was before the age of the telephone when there was no alternative. The point of having a local police station never was to make it easy to report crime, but to make it easy to respond to crime. If reporting crime alone is the prime concern, we must expect to have that function outsourced next to India or some other continent, not just a different town or city.

My concern is that this is all an exercise in reducing front-line police to balance budgets. Budgets that are out of balance not because of cut-backs although they are happening too, but because of inept leadership at the top. The leadership will continue to cull front-line police to the extent where one day we will have a chief constable, a few senior hangers-on and that’s it. They will be consuming so much money in salaries and overheads there won’t be any budget left for actual policemen and women.

As you might surmise from my Didcotman ‘handle’, I do indeed live in Didcot and it’s worth making the point that I’m very happy with policing here. We have a good well-manned police station and a magistrates court that are not under threat, and the result of that is a low crime rate. In my ideal world I would like to see the police have nothing better to do than to wander the streets looking for crime and not finding any. How you report crime, Mr Scarrott, is then a non-issue if there is nothing to report.

Read “End of the Bobby on the Beat” in the Telegraph.

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