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Monday, April 25, 2005

 

Patrolling

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is the one produced by the Policeman who goes by the pseudonym Dave Copperfield. Dave appears to believe that getting Police officers out on the beat, patrolling the streets on foot is a good thing. Not unnaturally I tend to agree with this view of the world. Well I would, wouldn’t I?

My argument is as follows; one of the things the statistic led model of modern policing fails to take into account is the human side. The feeling that there’s someone on hand who can actually do something about the many acts of petty theft and vandalism that plague communities. A foot patrol is so much better at this than one in a car. On foot you get to observe the minutiae of life, the little details that car patrols can so easily miss. Those two lads wandering up the alley behind that terrace of houses might or might not be up to no good, but if a uniformed grown up gives them the look that says “I’m watching” then there is, generally speaking, less of a temptation to let those baser impulses for mischief out of the bag. I recognise of course that there are a minority who will damage, steal and disrupt no matter what you do, but those of weaker will are less likely to be led into temptation, so petty crime problems should decrease in most areas.

In intelligence gathering circles, this kind of patrol activity produces what the senior spooks call HUMINT, one of those military pseudo acronyms which are short for Human Intelligence gathering. In Iraq, as with so many other modern conflicts, HUMINT is sparse and leads to some serious cock-ups. Where this kind of information is not gathered, the picture of what is really going on is incomplete and other means cannot replicate it.

The Police Community Support Officers are an okay(ish) idea, but without the power and authority of arrest, the bad guys are not going to take them seriously. By the time a PCSO has been called, identified a problem and called real Police, bad guy has legged it. Full Police officer could have been there, nicked miscreant and filled out his Pocket Note book. All he needs to do is be there.

Thus I would make the case for a more human scale of Police force. By all means let us have the fast response support units as backup, but let us also have someone regular who just walks and talks; someone who by just being there can provide a focus of confidence for the public. Not some machine for generating crime / offence statistics like a speed camera. Cameras can only record offences – it takes a real live human being to keep the peace, which is what the public need. Not crime statistics which are only the domain of the half informed.

On that subject, I wonder what’s happened to the car crime statistics since we increased our foot patrols? I bet no one has bothered to look. If they haven’t gone down I stand corrected.

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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