Bobbies on the beat

With all the financial strictures on publicly funded services for the last 6 years I think we’ve got so used to the “Cuts are Good, Spending is Bad” mantra  of our government that we don’t see the nonsense of a lot of it.

Our local police force, Devon & Cornwall, is about to close a lot of police stations and make several hundred officers and support staff redundant.  In their reporting of this decision, the TV news media use the old stock images of two policemen (or women) walking along a street.  When did you last see any policemen walking along a street?

Now, part of the rationale (really?) is that the statistics say crime is reducing so logically (really?) we don’t need so many police officers and offices.  Meanwhile we see that low level, anti-social, behaviour is tolerated and on the rise.  The more we tolerate, the higher the threshold for what is considered intolerable.  I remember, as a child, being ticked off by a beat policemen for horseplay with a friend too near a road!  Doesn’t anyone see that the more we withdraw visible policing presence (whether human or bricks and mortar) the more low level ‘crime’ there will be.  The fewer resources available to challenge crime the bigger the crime will have to be to attract attention: from an acceptance of low level crime, and anti-social behaviour, comes more serious crime.  No, I’m not saying that every litter lout will go on to snatch a ‘phone or steal a car, or assault someone…but some will. In the end, spending less on frontline community policing will cost more down the line in the criminal justice system.  Where’s the saving then?

However for a growing section of the population, senior citizens, it is the feeling of insecurity and unease generated by being face-to-face with this sort of anti-social behaviour, that has the most impact on their daily lives.  Of course, senior citizens are targetted by scammers and opportunist thieves.  But the sort of crime to which the police are increasingly pointing their dwindling resources, drugs, cyber crime, terrorism etc., does not figure so large in the quality of life of older people.  It seems that the driving force behind allocation of police resources is less the impact on ordinary lives and more the monetary, or headline grabbing, value of the crime.