I would have loved to see Bobby Bear stop motorist

Ellie Farley and Jack White meet Bobby Bear.
Ellie Farley and Jack White meet Bobby Bear.
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On THe Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner

‘I’ve not seen so many police in the town centre at the same time since Greggs had a two for one offer on doughnuts!’

That was the amusing Facebook jibe referring to our engagement event in The Sheepmarket last week.

One or two people asked me how I could justify so many cops in one place not doing ‘real’ police work, when I’m always in the paper saying we’re short-staffed.

Actually, most of the staff were volunteers: our enthusiastic police cadets; our wonderful special constables; the dedicated street pastors and indefatigable CCTV volunteers.

Also present were some of our local PCSOs, doing what they are paid to do: engage with their local community. There were also one or two police officers who had given up their days off to take part.

The officers from roads policing and the dog unit were on routine duty, and both dealt with other incidents during the course of the day.

The day was planned as an opportunity for locals to meet some of the departments that support our local policing.

There was also an opportunity to speak with the police and crime commissioner, Alan Hardwick.

I planned the day as a fun event, with activities for children, but also with important opportunities for people to tell us what their concerns are.

Community engagement is an important part of community policing. We don’t do it because it’s a nice thing to do (although it is a nice thing to do and we do enjoy it).

We do it because decades of research that show that, if you get community policing right, it reduces crime and anti-social behaviour and reduces the fear of crime.

This reduces the demand on the emergency response teams and CID.

There are four key principles to community policing: access, influence, intervention and answers.

‘Access’ is about giving people access to our policing services. The 101 number was introduced to make it easier to contact your local police.

The force website and the crime statistics on www.police.uk give people access to policing information.

Some people like the easy access of social media and Twitter. I would love to see a text message system introduced to make it easy to report non-urgent ASB (anti-social behaviour), such as street drinkers.

There are many different facets to our community and they all have different needs and expectations.

We therefore need to balance our visibility in our rural communities with the need for emergency response to urgent incidents in areas of higher population.

‘Influence’ is the formal process of local residents taking part in their local community policing panels. It doesn’t matter how many engagement events we do: if we aren’t dealing with the things that matter most to our community, people are going to feel let down.

So these local panels set the local priorities for their local community policing teams. You don’t get more influential than that.

‘Intervention’ is about the police and other agencies, such as the council and the road safety partnership taking action to deal with the issues raised by the policing panels.

A lot of the issues raised by local panels are not crime or ASB issues, so it’s not always the police that need to take action. Also, taking action doesn’t always mean enforcement: it can be about education as well.

‘Answers’ is simply about telling you what we’ve done. We do this through traditional media and social media.

This isn’t something the police service has been very good at doing in the past. The attitude used to be ‘what do we HAVE to tell the media’ (ie: only the bare minimum).

My attitude is that I will be as open as possible and only refrain from releasing information if there is an operational or legal need.

So, everything we do in community policing should be addressing one or more of these four principles.

Our use of Twitter is a good example: it gives people access to their local police and allows us to provide timely answers. In a way, my weekly column in this paper does the same thing in a less expeditious way.

Our community engagement event allowed people access to their local officers. Several people spoke with me and expressed their concerns about lack of policing in their area.

This is to be expected. Every time I go on foot patrol people tell me they never see an officer. People have been telling me this since I first went on foot patrol 25 years ago.

However, the overwhelming message I got from people last week was how pleased they are with the reduction of ASB in Ayscoughfee Gardens and The Vista, and the reduction of street drinkers within the town centre.

Several people were complimentary about my hard-working PCSOs. When people come up to me and talk to me about their local PCSO, referring to them by name, then I know that PCSO is doing the right thing in their community.

It was still a normal policing day last Tuesday and other officers were on foot patrol in the town centre and the dispersal zone of Ayscoughfee Gardens and The Vista.

Street drinkers on the riverbank were dealt with, other officers were on cycle patrol in their villages and the emergency response teams dealt with incidents throughout the day.

There was also a bit of ‘real’ police work in The Sheepmarket, where we seized a vehicle for no insurance and also dealt with a shoplifter.

However, I was embarrassed to learn on social media that we all, including me, missed a car travel the wrong way round The Sheepmarket!

What a shame: I would have loved to see Bobby Bear stop a motorist.

Thank you to everyone that came to meet us. I hope you got what you wanted out of your visit.

Oh, and for the record... not a single doughnut passed our lips all day.