There are those who believe the answer to a rising crime rate is simply more Bobbies on the beat, and there is no doubt that the thought of the local Constable – who knew everyone in the community and everyone knew – is a comforting one. What those who cling to that idea sometimes fail to recognise is how, in 2020, ‘the beat’ is so very different from the days of that quintessential Bobby Dixon of Dock Green – and how policing has also evolved to keep pace with how crime has changed.
Two recent incidents in Moreton in Marsh are good examples.
Last November, thieves raided a cash machine at a petrol station and followed it up by slashing tyres on a number of police cars parked nearby. I understand and empathise with how incidents like these can have a devastating effect on communities. However, those who suggest police are no longer interested in tackling rural crime, or that the answer is a constable on foot, are out of touch with reality.
While the usual suspects were furthering their own agendas by railing against me and my Police and Crime Plan, officers from the Constabulary’s crime operations team were on the trail, working hard behind the scenes in a way the old-style Bobby would never have been able to. As a result, last week one man from Worcestershire appeared in court charged with causing criminal damage to eight police cars and theft of a cash machine in the Cotswolds. Another man, also from Worcestershire, was released under investigation pending further inquiries.
I have spoken before, in both local and national forums, of the need to focus more on serious organised criminals who travel the countryside randomly targeting rural communities for profit and how it should be higher up the law enforcement agenda. It is why I allocated an extra £250,000 to the Chief Constable towards tackling burglary and serious organised gangs operating around the county.
The Moreton in Marsh investigation justifies this approach and is an early sign of our commitment to the fight against burglary and serious acquisitive rural crime.
So, be reassured the Chief Constable and I still believe in neighbourhood policing. Our neighbourhood teams, rural and environment crime officers, PCSOs and newly restored schools teams are rebuilding links with local communities. Front line officers benefit from advances in mobile technology, ground-breaking DNA techniques and more sophisticated surveillance methods and equipment.
In other words, the 21st century ‘Bobby’ is still on the case but ‘the beat’ is no longer just down your street.