Public priorities need recognising

THE most depressing aspect of today's landmark report on anti-social behaviour is that it again shows how New Labour's reforms made a negligible impact.

Of course, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary acknowledged the last government for making the wider law-abiding public more aware about their rights. Yet what is alarming is the policing

inconsistencies, and the ineffective nature of "partnership" crime-fighting with agencies such as local councils. Invariably, the consequence was a convoluted bureaucracy that did not reflect the priorities of long-suffering crime victims.

It should not be like this.

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As the HMIC implies, every victim of anti-social behaviour believes that their complaint should be afforded priority status – even if the alleged offence is relatively minor in comparison to those high-profile incidents that have appalled the nation.

Understandably, they will be dismayed when they are told that their complaint does not warrant priority status, and the police need to recognise this.

What is perplexing, however, is that only half of the country's police forces have IT systems in place to identify, and prioritise, repeat calls for action.

This is odd, given that the vast majority of criminal behaviour is undertaken by the same core of offenders who, invariably, target, intimidate and harass the same individuals ad infinitum.

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As such, there needs to be far greater consistency governing the police response, even though it should be left to the discretion of individual forces to set local priorities.

Yet, as well as better early intervention strategies, the HMIC's report, Stop the rot, could not have been clearer when it added: "Make no mistake, it requires feet on the street."

In other words, high-profile policing is effective. The challenge, however, is maintaining, and increasing police patrols, when overtime budgets are being reduced, and when the Police Federation is warning that 40,000 officers might lose their jobs.

It is the next conundrum that the Inspectorate needs to solve.