Two of the country’s most senior police officers have signalled that the era of routine patrols by ‘bobbies on the beat’ has come to an end, as they “do not prevent crime” and “do not make the public feel safer”. The comments were made by the chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Sara Thornton, and Craig Mackey, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on the 27th of October.
Whilst such cutbacks are likely to unsettle the public, Thornton argued that whilst “it’s one of those features of policing that the public have come to like and respect” there is “evidence… that random police patrol doesn’t prevent crime, doesn’t solve crime, it doesn’t, in fact, make people feel safer.” Asked if the days of routine patrols were over, she said while officers would always respond to incidents where people were in difficulty, in future patrols would not be focused on areas of low crime.
In the same Newsnight interview Mackey insisted that due to large scale funding cuts the public would have to get used to new methods of investigating crime. Mackey said the Met was anticipating a £1bn cut in funding, which could lead to up to 8,000 job losses, a quarter of the whole force, with compulsory redundancies being “a real possibility” .The police service does not have a ring-fenced budget and has been told to expect a 25% to 40% reduction in funding in November’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
He claimed that as a result it was “inevitable” that the threshold for investigating certain crimes would rise and “some of the services you got face to face you won’t get in the future” with victims having to rely on telephone calls. He went on to state that the cuts were so severe that the Met was considering seeking private investment from banks and other big businesses to help shoulder the cost of investigating specific offences (such as cyber crime), though admitting that such a drastic step would create “all kinds of ethical hurdles…but we absolutely have to explore it”.
A certain amount of “DIY policing” would also help the force, he added. “Getting people involved in the whole notion of prevention work and crime detection work has got to be part of the future.”
The Home Office responded by claiming that police reform was working and crime was falling. Minister for Policing Mike Penning said that the 2010 reforms had “made it easier for the police to do their job by cutting red tape, scrapping unnecessary targets, and giving officers the discretion to use their professional judgement” and that “Decisions on the operational deployment of resources are matters for chief constables, in association with Police and Crime Commissioners… as HMIC has shown, what matters is how officers are deployed, not how many of them there are in total.”