Policing must be proactive

IN trying to regain the initiative on law and order following the botched launch of crime maps and Labour claims that up to 10,000 frontline policing posts could be lost in the spending shake-up, the coalition appears to be repeating many of the last government’s mistakes.

Tony Blair’s threat to frogmarch yobs to the nearest cashpoint to pay a fine came to nothing, and similar threats to confiscate young offenders of their iPods, stereos and other status symbols are also unlikely to materialise. The police have neither the time nor the manpower, irrespective of how their resources are divided up.

Likewise, the Government has yet to demonstrate that the replacement of the discredited anti-social behaviour orders, with a new range of offences, will be effective. Asbos were allowed to become a “badge of honour” for young delinquents because they could not be properly enforced. And, while the notion of a crime prevention injunction is a laudable one in stopping nuisance behaviour before it escalates, Ministers have yet to explain how this measure will work at a time when courts are closing and local policing teams are being compromised by the prospect of cuts.

These ambiguities, and others, suggest that this is an impromptu exercise to look “tough” on crime in the week when the Government might have to yield to European demands to give prisoners the vote.

For, if this was a considered appraisal of youth justice, the Government would be explaining how community police officers will become the heartbeat of local neighbourhoods under the so-called “Big Society” – another sound intention that Ministers are unable to articulate or implement effectively.

This process of engagement, whether it be in community activities or through street patrols, is likely to be far more effective than scrapping Asbos for the sake of change.

Equally, it will assuage those residents who were recoiling yesterday at the prospect of the Government stating that it might take five complaints from residents for the police to intervene – another statement that contradicts the coalition’s localism agenda. This is certainly not the proactive policing policy that David Cameron once promised, and which law-abiding households have a right to expect.