Last week the latest crime figures were announced. The Home Office decide what counts as a ‘recorded crime’ and Lincolnshire are in the top five forces for our ethical recording of crime. So I’m heartened that over the last two years recorded crime in South Holland has fallen by 28%.
However, as I have said before, recorded crime is just one, rather simplistic, measure of our productivity. So it was with a certain amount of discombobulation that I read a quote from a Home Office Minister saying “If crime is going down year on year... that has an impact on the number of police officers you need on the street”.
If crime is down by 28%, should we, pro-rata, reduce police numbers in South Holland by 28%? Now, I’m too close to my pension to criticise a Home Office Minister, and there may be certain parts of the country where his theory is applicable.
I was more concerned that his view may reflect the general view in South Holland. I would hope not, because I often use my weekly column to talk about the hidden aspects of 21st Century policing, so I hope readers already have an understanding that we don’t just deal with crime.
There is no such thing as a typical policing day in South Holland. One of the greatest pleasures in policing is that you never know what’s going to happen next.
This is also its greatest challenge. But to give an understanding of what we deal with I will share with you 24 hours in South Holland from 7am last Thursday to 7am last Friday.
During that period, there were three shifts of emergency response drivers at Spalding and Holbeach, working earlies, lates and nights.
When they came on duty, each of those officers already had an investigation workload from previous incidents that were reported. In addition to them, members of the Community Policing teams came on duty and patrolled The Suttons, Holbeach, Spalding Rural and Spalding Town Centre on foot, on cycles and in cars. Detectives were working hard behind the scenes on Child Protection investigations, major fraud enquiries and many other complex enquiries.
Two prisoners arrested during the night were languishing in the cells, while CID prepared to interview them.
In the 24 hours there were 66 incidents or calls for our service.
Pressures of space prevent me going in to great detail here. However, if you follow me on Twitter, I itemised each incident on there. To summarise:
n There were two non-injury traffic collisions in Gedney and Spalding and a cyclist was knocked off their bike in West Marsh Road.
n There were three traffic hazards and five other traffic incidents reported: suspected drink-drivers, dangerous driving, etc.
These were in Spalding, Pinchbeck, Quadring, Donington and Gedney. These are important because they can prevent fatal collisions.
n Officers were called to assist SHDC officers at an illegal residency at a Spalding address.
n We were called to support Fire Crew at a caravan fire at The Vista. This needed an investigation but initial enquiries suggest it to be non-deliberate, so no crime has been recorded at this stage. This may change.
n There were 5 incidents of domestic abuse. We will always treat these calls as urgent and always attend. Many times the abuse may be emotional or verbal, rather than actual violence. Although no crimes were committed, we still give the victim every bit of support that we can. This is important in order to prevent future domestic violence.
n Sadly we also dealt with the sudden death of an 85 year old woman in Spalding. These incidents always involve a lot of time and empathy. We carry out investigations on behalf of HM Coroner to establish the cause of death. It doesn’t mean the death is suspicious and it doesn’t mean there is a crime.
n There were several calls about drunken behaviour, including three calls to the same homeless man in Spalding and one call to a drunken man who had fallen asleep on his own doorstep in Sutton Bridge.
n There were also several suspicious incidents that required our attendance, but turned out to have innocent explanations.
n During the night we were asked to assist an elderly lady who had pulled a lifeline pendant. Thankfully it was pulled by mistake. Strictly speaking this should be an ambulance attendance, but if we are nearby humanity wins out over policy.
n There was an incident in Holbeach when someone reported to us that she had received suicidal texts from a friend. Sadly calls of this nature are all too common and take a lot of our time.
n There was a report of a fall-out between a shop-keeper and customer in a village store when the shopkeeper wouldn’t provide a carrier bag.
n There were also calls about neighbour disputes which require tact and diplomacy. There was also a report of youths playing football, where the ball was banging on the caller’s gate. None of the incidents listed above resulted in a crime being recorded.
There were some crimes reported: the attempted theft of a trailer in Pinchbeck and a number plate stolen in Holbeach.
In the afternoon, two men were arrested in Spalding following the recent theft of a bike. One man was charged with the theft.
Officer-initiated activity, that wasn’t linked to calls from the public, included a man who was arrested in Whaplode for a bail offence (not a recorded crime).
A company director was interviewed at Spalding Police Station in relation to an ongoing enquiry (a crime had already been recorded on a previous occasion).
During the night two men were arrested in Spalding for drug-related offences (two recorded crimes) and a third man was arrested for a drink/drive offence (not a recorded crime). Five street drinkers were dealt with in Victoria Street (not recorded as crimes). So in the 24-hour period, out of 66 incidents, only three have resulted in recorded crimes. That’s about 5%. Conversely, this also means that 95% of the calls were not linked to recorded crime.
This doesn’t mean that I think people shouldn’t call us. In writing this I am not trivialising the nature of the calls: quite the contrary.
I’m well aware that when people call us they are at their wit’s end and don’t know who else to turn to. My sole aim in writing this is to address any perception among South Holland residents that, because crime is down, we could make do with less officers.
I often hear the phrase ‘more for less’, the principle being that we can get more out of less officers. In some ways we have already proved this: we have the lowest number of officers since the seventies and crime has fallen. This week Lincolnshire Police has been identified as the most cost-effective force in the country. I am proud of my force’s efficiency savings. However, there is a tipping point in the numbers of officers, where the only thing you get for less....is less.