From the Torygraph:
Police give up the fight as yobs take over
Police have lost control of the streets, the forces' watchdog warns as new figures show that an estimated 14 million incidents of anti-social behaviour take place each year – one every two seconds.
Sir Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, says the rowdy and abusive behaviour of yobs is a "disease" within communities that has been allowed to "fester" because police have retreated from the streets in the past two decades.
In a report, he claims that forces have been guilty of chasing crime statistics and targets and ignoring anti-social behaviour or "screening out" 999 calls because it is deemed "not real police work".
I'm starting to sound like a Daily Mail reader, but isn't this what everyone has been saying for years? Go and read the whole thing: it's a revelation. And how's this for a statistic:
Earlier this year, Sir Denis disclosed that just one in 10 police officers was free to tackle crime at any given time because the vast majority were either off work or tied up on other duties.
In fact, that '1 in 10' may be optimistic: Wat Tyler over at BOM calculates that, at half past midnight on a Friday night, as little as 6.4% of the total police strength is available to deal with problems. Of the rest,
... half are permanently deployed on other matters, a further 42% aren't rostered for duty that night, and of those that are, a further 2% are off sick, on holiday, or on restricted duties. Which leaves just 6% available to do the job when we need it done.
What kind of muddle-headed, unfocused, plain stupid way is that to deploy your resources? (And what are the "other matters" that keep the police from doing the job we expect them to do?) It seems the police aren't around when they are needed to keep the streets safe for ordinary people at night, but when it comes to someone being 'offended' by a casual remark by a stranger, a Rapid Response team of trained, heavily-armed officers are instantly available to arrest and question some mild-mannered 45-year-old who happened to say something that sounded a bit like 'Paki'. I'm not condoning racism, by the way; just staggered by the lack of proportion.
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Let's go back a few years ...
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I can remember a time when crimes were things like burglary, assault, theft - things that actually harm people and make their lives miserable. If you dropped litter in the street, someone - usually a passing stranger - would pick you up on it. If a policeman saw you, he would have words and, if you were young, tell your parents. If you vandalised anything, you would be caught, humiliated, made to put it right, and have a criminal record. If, God forbid, you actually stole something, you would be arrested and probably sent to prison - even for a first offence. Assault, if unprovoked, would get you some gaol-time for certain. (And if you hit someone because they hit you first, the policeman would probably say "he had it coming to him" and say no more about it.)
People were well-behaved in general, for three reasons: one was that getting caught was quite likely; the second was that punishments were certain, and something to be feared; and the third was that a criminal record was something to be avoided at all costs. Having 'previous' would limit you to certain low-grade jobs for the rest of your life and, as a consequence, people made a big effort not to get one. Mainly by not breaking the law.
It was easier to stay within the law in those days as well. There weren't as many to obey. As long as you went about your business without harming anyone, you could pretty much guarantee that you would not break any laws. In other words, anyone with a conscience and reasonable self-control could virtually forget that we even had a legal system. Just get on with your life, don't bother anyone else, and it is likely no-one will bother you. And if they do, the police will be there and the justice system will be entirely on your side.
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Not any more. Today, if you catch a burglar who has been threatening your wife and children with a knife and give him a good pasting, it's you that will be on the assault charge. If you object to people parading the streets calling for the murder of all those who don't follow their faith, it's you that is the racist. (Gordon Brown's remark about that "bigoted woman" was sooooooo revealing.) If you make a private remark about someone and it is overheard by someone else - anyone - and that person is offended by what you say, it's you that is up on a hate-crime charge.
And when you really need the police, you just have to hope that the 6.4% of the force available to help you at that time do not decide to classify your cry for help as non-urgent, and therefore meet their targets while you suffer God knows what on your own.
I can't remember the last time I saw a policeman walking along the street, just 'patrolling'. You don't even see many in their cars round here. And yet police on the streets, stopping crime before it happens, is what people actually want. I'm coming round to the idea of locally-elected police chiefs (I can't seriously call them 'sheriffs'), who will ensure that the police force in their areas do what the public want them to do, and not what Whitehall or the police themselves think they should do.
Sir Hugh Orde, the head of ACPO, said last year:
"We must be operationally independent in terms of how we deliver policing. We should not be influenced by anyone who has any potential or suggestion for a political basis."
This is amusing, from the head of a body that has done more to get into bed with the previous Government than seemed possible a few years ago. But what does he mean by "anyone who has the ... suggestion for a political basis"? To me, that means someone who is elected by the local population on a mandate to promote certain priorities. That's what 'political' means. And "operationally independent"? That's code for "we know best".
This is a bit like what we heard when the BNP got a couple of MEPs:
"But the people elected them!"
"Well, the people are wrong!"