Preventing crime, and reassuring residents, is just as important as apprehending those who break the law.
Yet, like others, the police are having to adapt to unprecedented changes in society. Three decades ago, the BBC’s Crimewatch was a pioneering programme because it enabled forces to reconstruct serious crimes and appeal to viewers to apply their detective skills.
The format worked, but it, too, has been superseded by CCTV cameras – witness appeals are quicker and easier to make – and by a decline in TV viewing figures.
And while constabularies are, in many respects, struggling to keep up with technology, not least the rise in online fraud or the use of the internet to perpetuate hatred, it can be used to their advantage. One example is the algorithm that has been developed by University College London academics to help the aforementioned West Yorkshire force predict with greater precision where burglaries might take place.
Though the scheme is in its infancy, a pilot project in Bradford East has coincided with a fall in the number of house break-ins because the data provided enables forces to deploy officers to those hotspots deemed to be at the most risk. And, while it’s still early days, there’s no reason why, on the evidence available thus far, predictive policing should not compliment community policing and make the region’s streets safer for all.