2-tier police force could patrol our streets and fight organised crime

This week Parliament discussed neighbourhood policing.

It took me back to my old boss Charles Clarke who, as Home Secretary in 2005, wanted to increase police numbers and lower costs by reshaping and reducing the overall number of forces.

He’d received a report from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary arguing that the existing structure wasn’t fit for purpose.

It recommended creating strategic constabularies of sufficient size to provide effective neighbourhood policing and tackle organised crime.

The plan was opposed by Tory politicians and the Association of Police Authorities.

We still have broadly the same structure 17 years later, although now bolstered by Police and Crime Commissioners, making reform less likely and the politicisation of policing more common.

I regularly hear from frustrated constituents about the small number of prosecutions for those who burgle our homes, steal our cars and threaten our loved ones.

Falling police numbers are part of the explanation, but do Charles Clarke’s ideas offer a further clue about the failure to tackle these crimes and the collapse of the principle of neighbourhood policing so painstakingly established by Labour Home Secretaries between 1997 and 2010?

Even if Boris Johnson keeps his promise and puts some money back, we’ll still end up with 1,000 fewer officers than in 2010 and continue to suffer from an unfair formula which drives up our council tax while giving us a smaller share of government funding than places like neighbouring Warwickshire.

Consequently, their police numbers are increasing while ours have fallen.

We need two things: quality detectives to tackle cybercrime that empties bank accounts, stop modern slave traders and smash criminal gangs; we also need police to tackle burglary, vehicle theft and anti-social behaviour.

If neighbourhood policing is forced to compete with organised crime for resources, it will always be the poor relation.

We’ve already lost 50% of neighbourhood officers. Perhaps now is the time for reform.

Why not a two-tier system with ring-fenced resources protecting the numbers policing our streets, gathering local intelligence and keeping the community safe and a, separately funded, second tier of specialised officers able to wage war on organised crime?

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