Police must hear priorities of the public

I recently received an email from an irate constituent. His car, parked outside his home, was damaged in an attempted theft. Fortunately, a neighbour witnessed the incident and managed to note the registration of the getaway vehicle. Three days later, the police hadn’t given any indication they intended to pursue the matter. They hadn’t even issued a crime number.

As I was reading this account, I was also looking at police social media messages. They often show pictures of officers walking the beat or carrying out knife searches. These are commendable activities, offering public reassurance. Also useful is information they provide on areas subject to the most recent spate of burglaries or attempted car thefts.

However, I find the public also wants information about outcomes.

It’s like only getting half the story and reminds me of how I feel when I hear government ministers say they’re increasing police numbers while refusing to acknowledge they’re only trying to undo the damage caused when they slashed them in 2010.

This assumption that it’s okay to only comment on favourable news is one of the more frustrating features of modern life. Only telling people the positive story will not work and can lead to a cynicism that means even genuine public information is discredited.

I’m pleased to see our new Police and Crime Commissioner say neighbourhood policing is his priority but I wonder if we need something more? Perhaps a new contract between the Home Office, police and public. Policing is by consent in this country, so where’s our say on priorities?

West Midlands Police have done well in managing coronavirus restrictions and generally get credit for a softly, softly approach to public order but there’s no disguising concern about violent and sexual crime at record levels, anxiety at knife crime among the young and house breaking and car crime which are on the rise.

We need increased visibility but we also need more arrests and when they’re called with information, about car theft from outside someone’s home in broad daylight, shouldn’t the police be under an obligation to respond?

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