Monthly Archives: August 2011
It appears one of my recent Tweets - “N.Yorks Police speed camera detects almost 2,000 offences in 1 month http://t.co/KH4gEVG – Indicative of poor Roads Policing in the past?” – may have been misconstrued or taken out of context?
According to my source, it was suggested The Babble was simply having yet another unfounded and unreasonable pop at North Yorkshire Police officers. Let me assure you, nothing could be further from the truth…
The policing issue I wished to raise (traffic law enforcement) is just one of those which reaches much further afield than simply within the county bounds. My intention was to highlight the topic, all be it in a slightly cynical manner, provoke discussion on the issues and follow it up later. It appears I had some minor success and I will now elaborate… The Tweet was in relation to a BBC News article published recently.
The specific topic highlighted here is just one in a myriad of problems facing British policing today, hence the modern importance of the Corporate Communications Directorate. A department, now common place in most police forces and one that will have prepared and published a media release on the subject. The aim being to inform the public and promote (often unseen) police actions. A highly commendable and mostly required function, the public want to know what the police are doing about the issues impacting upon them.
As ever, despite careful wording of any release, the police media team can only take an educated professional guess as to resulting public thoughts on the issue. There is also relatively little control over how that release is subsequently used by its recipients. However it also should be said that too often these days, police corporate messages tend to be more about placating public concern, and disguising failures in meeting public expectation. As I’ve pointed out before, too many good time stories and hot air, as opposed to tangible results and details about action. To be fair, this particular item does explain action.
To have any understanding of where things are going wrong (in policing) we need to revisit the original basic core purpose and functions of the British policing model… (1) The prevention of crime (2) the detection of crime and (3) the apprehension of offenders… In that order and that order alone. These priorities are listed (more or less) in descending order of difficulty, hence one of the reasons why this order is often turned on its head. Another reason is the one of ‘police accountability’, a factor usually measured by simple statistics. It is far easier to count arrests and tickets than count what has (or may have) been prevented however; even that simplistic methodology is mostly flawed (see here)
NYP profess to be “Delivering modern policing in a traditional way” but, irrespective of this (arguably) pointless strapline, the word ‘traditional’ is actually more important than most of us care (or dare) to admit. We are constantly bombarded with the words ‘moving forward’ in almost every aspect of life. Any suggestion of history or tradition is generally frowned upon in business. These dirty words usually tend to suggest an organisation that is stuck in the past, stuck in its ways (right or wrong) and totally incapable of delivering anything of worth to a modern society, unless you’re involved in the antiques or memorabilia business that is. But British policing is a traditional function formulated during many years, a function that until relatively recently in our history, usually served us well.
That said, I can actually see the picture NYP is endeavoring to build in people’s minds; tell the motoring public that speed is dangerous and if you do it you face being caught and punished. That is true however, what are the realistic chances of actually being caught these days, despite the undoubted early success of any new technology deployed by our police? I would hazard a guess at, pretty slim!
They may have been unpopular, “why aren’t you out catching crooks instead of hassling drivers“, was an often heard cry however; roads policing officers on patrol were always a major factor in influencing driver behaviour, and subsequent accident reduction. Despite these officers (mostly) setting good example to others with their enhanced driving skills road manners, there was also a real fear of being caught. That fear has been reduced, as any driver will notice, how often do we actually see a police patrol car on our travels these days? Particularly in the more rural areas or remote sections of our highway network.
Police managers will tell you that; ”modern policing has moved on” and “there are additional tools available in their armoury” or, “we need to show value for money” in our policing. All these factors may be true however; when the public actually hold little real fear as to the consequences of their actions, as with many aspects of the criminal justice system today, a great deal of police work (actual or perceived) becomes superfluous!
Effective policing (of any kind), and in particular preventative policing, is a resource that impacts heavily upon the public purse. And as we all know, that public purse happens to be bereft of cash at the moment. Given the fact it is harder to quantify ‘prevention’ (mostly unpopular in this respect), as opposed to the bean counting of statistical results, any police patrol of a ‘preventative’ nature is mostly a historical pipe dream now.
But, isn’t this one of those (many) areas of policing whereby prevention is better than the cure? Better to influence than punish, unless punishment is the only realistic and required outcome? Speed camera technology may be one of those ‘additional tools’ in modern policing however; it has no discretion (without human intervention), it can’t and shouldn’t replace the human resources actually required by policing, irrespective of the costs involved… Fact, not unfashionable antiquity!
- Speed Cameras in North Yorkshire Nab more than 1,800 drivers in First Month (bigbrotherwatch.org.uk)
I can’t imagine I’m the only one who finds this piece a little hard to swallow, irrespective of the implied ‘actions’ to combat problems. Especially when you consider there has actually been an “ increase in house burglaries across the Hambleton and Richmondshire areas over recent weeks?
Superintendent Amanda Oliver, the Safer Neighbourhood Commander for the area has said:
“From enquiries we believe the recent increase in house burglaries has been committed by thieves travelling into the area. The message to them is simple – we are watching you and when you are caught we will use every tool available to bring you to justice…” (Supt. Oliver)
I initially mentioned how our Wagtails thrive in sunshine back in April 2011. At that point it appears I may have fuelled the angst of a lady called ‘Lily’ (apparently), she certainly didn’t appear very happy with my viewpoint. In reprimanding me she said; “Probably best to do some research before posting embarrassing content.” With that factor in mind, I’ll do my best not to upset anyone this time around; especially those who are undoubtedly putting a great deal of effort into combating the problem.
Let me start by saying, I can’t imagine for one moment that Supt. Oliver has only just realised; “thieves travelling into the area” is a contributory factor to the increased level of house burglary. I wonder if it’s supposed to make the issue easier for us to accept; “yipee, it wasn’t our bad lads, it was some from over the border.” Is that shout from the locals, or anything similar, a real possibility? I doubt it.
As North Yorkshire is such a vast and rural county, surrounded by sprawling urban conurbations in the West, North and South, this factor has always played a major part in the crime figures of the county. Due to that rural topography, and the limited police resources to cover such a large area, crooks from outside have always looked upon North Yorkshire as a prime venue for their activity. Add to that the predominance of some very affluent inhabitants, often with some highly attractive and valuable easy pickings, and you can surely understand the reasoning behind their love of the area… There is often a much slimmer chance of getting caught red-handed and, its certainly not the scenic views they come for!
Extensive research has shown that; crime statistics only ever show part of the full picture, especially when they relate to ‘perceived’ police performance (see here). In addition, the people I refer to above, sit within my admiration, I hold them in high regard and fully support their endeavours.
The Police officers, Specials & PCSO’s who, through no fault of their own, are often also run ragged in their attempts to meet the demands of crime and other issues in the communities they serve. These people who often face unacceptable levels of personal dangers and/or massive impacts upon their health and personal family life are actually working hard to protect us. However, these resources are already working under a pay freeze and massive changes to their working conditions, which are also set to reduce even further as a result of government austerity measures. The problems surrounding over worked and under valued resources are often compounded by inept management of their deployment.
At this point I would add, just in case Lily is connected with Ms Oliver; this post, along with the previous one, is not aimed at her in particular. However, as the general trait amongst many self-interested senior police managers today is for talking up a good story but failing to deliver the goods; if the cap fits, I suggest she wears it.
As Lily pointed out last time around (and I totally agree); ”the public need to be informed about what the police are doing about crime.” But, as I replied to Lily then and repeat now; any use of the media to promote the actions and work of the police must be based upon fact. For varying reasons, North Yorkshire Police (and other forces), choose to be selective with that truth… With true PR mantra and rhetoric, the process often tends towards painting a rosier picture than is the reality, especially if it helps in reinforcing the agenda of ‘reducing the fear of crime‘, that or some perceived worth of a self-promoting Commander.
Perhaps more credence and value could actually be afforded to the subject matter in this media release if for example, there had been some small mention of any tangible results between April and August? The absence of such information, irrespective of the need to keep any overt/covert operational procedures circumspect and close to the corporate chest, would tend to suggest to the contrary.
I may be totally wrong, indeed I would hope so however; if I have caused further ‘embarrassment I would again ask the question I asked last time… Who should be concerned about the “embarassing content” of my post? Me, the officers involved in the operation, their management or, North Yorkshire Police as an organisation?