The government cuts in funding of public services over several years led to an increase in crime in the case of the police, with fewer police officers available to take the necessary pro-active action to effectively deal with organised crime groups. Much has been reported in the media about this.
I have written on this subject, plus the extra police officers being recruited under the current government`s increase in funding announced last year, but this week, I want to strike appositive note about the fight against crime, because although we are still a long way off from seeing the benefit of increased police numbers, the lockdown during Covid-19 has, in many ways, turned the tables on criminals.
General demand on the police has reduced through the seven week period of lockdown and this, coupled with the police only responding to emergencies, or where the threat or risk is deemed high, has meant that officers have had a little more time to concentrate their efforts on criminals in a pro-active way, which has been sorely lacking in recent years.
Another factor is less officers being abstracted from their normal duties to police large sporting events, festivals and other public events, which has kept more officers on patrol.
Previously, when demand was high, the police were essentially a reactive service, and even when pro-active work was done, it was hard to track criminals on the move because of busy roads and general public congestion.
Now, under lockdown, there is very little traffic and few people out and about, making it much easier to see individual vehicles and to follow them, or spot criminals out on foot.
This has led to more arrests or at least criminals being stopped and searched more often; they can no longer move about with the same air of confidence that they had before, where the chances of them being stopped by the police were less likely.
In addition, police officers have been able to be more concentrated in their approach to gathering intelligence on some organised criminals, which has led to an increase in the number of successful search warrants being carried out. Search warrants can only be granted by a magistrate if they are satisfied that the intelligence gathered is current and corroborated. Now that police have been able to develop intelligence more often and confirm suspected crime, more warrants have been obtained, which has led to the arrest of suspects and the recovery of stolen items.
All police officers do their job to frustrate the activities of criminals and to protect people and property, so their ability to be more pro-active helps them to achieve this and better serve the communities they work in.
The changing picture with the restrictions under Covid-19 will vary the ability of the police to respond in this way and when demand increases, then things will change again, but there are extra police officers being recruited all the time, which will pump new energy into the service.
It is important to mention that the pro-active work done by the police has never stopped at any time, however, the amount of it has naturally reduced under austerity and there had to be a more targeted method in concentrating on those who present the most risk and harm in our communities.
But for now, with the tables slightly turned, criminals are beginning to feel the heat again and this change does provide an opportunity to re-evaluate policing strategy as we emerge from lockdown, which we will surely do in the near future.
You can keep up to date with the latest government advice during COVID-19 and keep you and your family safe.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Office.