Last week I explained exploitation and gave some examples. In this week`s article, I will be bringing the topic down to a local level and how community policing is so important in not only dealing with this problem, but also the impact that some of the crime associated to exploited people has on local communities.
Community policing, or `neighbourhood policing` as you will often hear it referred to in the news, is so important to identifying exploited people and dealing with some of the crime committed by them, or the people who abuse them.
Cuts to police funding has meant that neighbourhood officers have reduced considerably in numbers and for those who remain in this role, the area that they cover is often too large for them to get to know the local problems well, or respond effectively to intelligence (information)
At a local level, there are people who are exploited and crimes such as fraud, theft and drug offences, which have a huge impact on communities. As well as these crimes, the people who are exploited are often abused, where offences such as sexual abuse and assault occur.
In addition, behind every person exploited (or abused) are families, who are left devastated by what has happened, therefore, for all these factors, there is good reason why neighbourhood policing needs to be at the forefront of identifying risk and dealing with it.
Recently I looked on the police bulletin and I saw a picture of a person who had stolen from a local shop. The value was nearly £2000.00 and the shop is a small local business, so this is a lot of money.
I knew the person responsible because I dealt with them last year for similar offences. The theft was a fraud offence, where a convincing story is given to a young, part-time member of staff and goods, mainly alcohol and cigarettes are handed over.
The person responsible comes from a family who care and when I spoke to their mother, I was informed that they did not know where their daughter was, but they had heard that she was staying in a flat where non-local people were using to supply drugs from.
It was clear to me that the daughter was being exploited, where her drug addiction makess her vulnerable and she is being used to commit bulk theft and will receive drugs in return, however, there is a good possibility that sexual abuse will also be a factor.
This young lady has mental health problems, but because she has mental capacity, in law she therefore knows what she is doing is illegal, so when found, she is likely to face a prison sentence. She will not tell of her full story however, therefore those who exploit her, remain free to move onto someone else.
Another example is where the mother of a 12-year-old boy phoned me asking that I met her with her son.
At the meeting, I found out that the mother had moved her son away from Farnborough to live in another town because he was running drugs for a dealer and he was not attending school because of the attraction of this life he was leading and the money he was making.
It was established that there were a group of young boys who were `working` for an adult woman and her partner, where the drugs were brought in from outside the area, packaged and then distributed by the boys on bicycles.
These boys were attracted by drugs, which they had been given free, but the debt was soon called in which they could not afford, nor feel they were able to ask for help from anyone, so they were then required to work for the adults to pay off the debt. Once involved and trusted, they would then get payment themselves, which was far more cash than many young people could dream of, plus they had entered this exciting adult world which was attractive to them.
Not only did the problem cause irreparable family problems, but the boys, plus his associated friends, would not attend school because of the life they were now leading.
The boys had a huge network of friends, so they would sell drugs to these young people, who needed to steal to fund their drug habit – a vicious cycle ensued.
These two examples are matters that can be dealt with locally, where there are vulnerable and exploited people to protect, but also crime, where there is a large impact on the community.
Community policing will remain at the heart of gathering intelligence, which is given where people within the community trust a familiar face and it is for these individual officers to develop the intelligence and then target those who are behind the exploitation and crime too.
The reduction in funding has had an impact on the ability for the authorities to deal effectively with exploitation, and this impact is now exposed which is causing a re-think about funding and how it is distributed. The importance of neighbourhood policing is also being recognised again and hopefully additional resources will be given to return officers to local areas, where they know their community well and can identify and tackle the problems such as the examples above.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Farnborough Police Office.