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!

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