ONE of the most troubling, and for the police, problematic aspects of crime in the 21st century is the ease with which it crosses borders. Criminals are all too keen to operate throughout the country in the belief that their chances of being caught are diminished if they are unfamiliar figures in a place where an offence is committed.
While the knowledge that individual officers have of criminals on their own patches is of invaluable aid in bringing them to justice, it is, more than ever, necessary for the police to not only match, but outreach, the criminal fraternity in moving quickly and effectively across county boundaries.
Sophisticated intelligence-led operations and close co-operation between police forces are increasingly important, and Operation Yankee, the investigation that caught a gang of car thieves, is a textbook example of how effective such enquiries can be, spanning as it did six force areas and resulting in some substantial prison sentences. An organised crime ring has been broken, and doubtless the police forces concerned will see fewer offences in each of their areas as a result.
The wider point is that this is yet another illustration of the need for ever-closer relations between individual police forces. Liaison between the four that serve our region has improved immensely in recent years, not least with the appointment of a senior officer whose brief crosses borders, and that has been a sensible, rational and pragmatic approach to the ever-changing nature of crime. Naturally, the urgency of monitoring and addressing the ever-present threat of terrorism has been a significant incentive for the pooling of resources and knowledge, but there is every reason that the same approach be directed at offenders of less murderous intent.
There has been much talk and speculation about a British version of the FBI, or even amalgamation of police forces. Both approaches have their advocates, even as both have their drawbacks. What is inarguable however, is that committed, expert and sensibly co-ordinated investigations such as Operation Yankee present a formidable weapon in the fight against crime, and should be applauded.