Friday, 29 January 2016

It's all about crime...... isn't it?

When most people think about the working day of a police officer they picture car chases, catching the crook and locking them up. But there is a lot more to it than that!

The "Road Wars" side of the job does exist. But it makes up less than 10% of your time. The rest is filled with paperwork, procedure and dealing with many things the public may be surprised with

From missing people, anti social behaviour and traffic accidents, the amount of time a police officer actively spends "fighting crime" is minimal

A former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Richard Mayne, said way back in 1829 that "The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime. The next that of the detection and punishment of offenders if a crime is committed" Some 187 years down the line, this ethos remains a key part of modern policing

As a neighbourhood police officer for almost 9 years, my main objective is to stop a crime happening in the first place. Through educating residents in crime prevention, working with the local council to change the layouts of known hotspots and patrolling areas at key times, the aim of the game is to stay one step ahead of the criminals. Let me explain a couple of the methods we use to try and achieve this

Environmental Visual Audit

An EVA is a process we use to understand why a certain road or area keeps being targeted by offenders. It could be a residential street has been the venue for 6 burglaries in a week. As the local neighbourhood team, we will take a look around and see if we can see why the offenders keep coming back. 

Is there adequate street lighting? Do the houses have easy access to the rear? Are there overgrown hedges which obscure the view from the main road? These are just a few of the questions we ask. During this EVA we will work closely with the local council to see if there are any immediate changes which can be made. Be that fixing the street lighting which every evening sees half the street engulfed by darkness or advising residents that they need to secure their side fences correctly to stop would be burglars gaining access to the rear of their properties

Broken Windows Theory

An EVA is also a useful tool to use when trying to tackle anti social behaviour. If we note a large amount of graffiti, rubbish, fly tipping etc, we will work with the local authority to clear this up. Working to the Broken Windows Theory an area which appears uncared for can attract anti social behaviour and, in turn, see an increase in crime

James Wilson and George Kelling first introduced the broken windows theory in an article titled Broken Windows, in the March 1982 The Atlantic Monthly. The title comes from the following example

"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars"

Although it has it cynics, I am a firm believer in this type of criminology and have utilised it on numerous occasions during my 9 years as a neighbourhood officer. From assisting with cleaning rubbish in local parks to removing graffiti, I have seen a notable drop in ASB in areas where we have put this theory into practice.

I bet you didn't think that police officers utilised complex criminology!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Policing Romfords Nightlife

When most people get ready for a night down Romford, they put on their nicest dress or shirt/jean combo, a pair of shoes and prepare for an evening of drinking, dancing and the 4am Kebab whilst waiting for a bus home. For a police officer, the routine is slightly different

Shirt and trousers, yellow jacket, boots and a hat. Not forgetting the radio, torch, first aid kit, sense of humour and most importantly..... patience

Our 10 hour shift starts at 7pm. Whilst many are still getting ready at home we are in the briefing room, being split into teams and given our specific roles for the evening ahead. Dinner is privilege and those who have done it before make sure they stock up on Redbull and Haribo for that 3am sugar/caffeine intake

The town is covered by extensive council run CCTV and our eyes in the sky are on hand to tell us when and where we are needed

On the local councils website they describe the nightlife in Romford as "the perfect place for a night out, whether you want a quiet pub drink, meal in one of the many restaurants or a dance in one of the nightclubs" and on the whole, this is a fair reflection of Romford on a Friday and Saturday night

As the crowds arrive we watch from afar. A mixture of over 15 bars, pubs and clubs attract 1000's of revellers into the town every weekend. The majority have a great time and go home at the end of the night a little worse for wear...... The small minority who don't are the ones who end their night in our company

But it's not just police officers and CCTV operators who are working to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable evening. We are often joined in the town centre by our colleagues from the Special Constabulary, St John's Ambulance and Street Pastors (people who voluntarily give up their free time on a Friday and Saturday night so others can enjoy theirs)

All integral cogs in a wheel which seamlessly kicks into motion be it someone who has fallen over, someone who becomes ill through too much drink or on lesser occasions to the first two, someone who has been assaulted or has assaulted someone else

This weekend saw us deal with all manner of incidents. Arrests in an environment of alcohol and crowded places are often inevitable. But in comparison to the number of people who arrive, have a great time and then leave, they are insignificant

From helping a female who had been assaulted by her boyfriend (suspect tracked by CCTV and arrested) a male who had fallen down two flights of stairs and cracking his head open (this one verbally abused me, my colleagues, St John's Ambulance and London Ambulance Service who were all trying to help him!) to being shouted at for not helping to find someones jacket which they left in a club. No two nights in Romford are the same. But one constant is the professionalism and dedication of those who work together so everyone else can have a safe and enjoyable evening

So the next time you're out in Romford and you see someone in a yellow jacket who looks cold, tired, annoyed or hungry, be sure to wave or say thank you for being here (a high five or handshake works just as well) because not everyone goes out partying at the weekend. For some it's just another night at the office!

Posted by 

PS Charlie Routley 26KD
Metropolitan Police Service
Havering Borough

Twitter = @MPSHaroldWood