Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Anti Society

The Policeman's Blog is talking about ASBO's at the moment, and in particular the case of one lad called Zak.

A few people have commented against ASBO's - one of the comments in particular has been the complaint that "it criminalizes behaviour that is actually against the law." Yes, it does. That's exactly what its for. ASBO's aren't used to tackle criminals - we tend to try and use the law for them. ASBO's are for the people, mostly (stereotyping) 'yobs in hoodies' (/stereotyping) who hang around, in the street drinking, and generally making other peoples lives in the street hell. How do they make it hell? Well, heres the problem. When the victims explain to people what is happening, it can easily sound like you are making a big deal out of it. They are dropping empty beer cans into your garden? Vomiting in the street? They are hanging around in large groups, being noisy and threatening? What do you mean you are frightened to go outside? Why? They are only kids.

Despite the 'petty' nature of the problems that ASBOs seem to solve, they are huge if you are actually living there. Imagine, and I don't care what age you are, that every afternoon, a group of approximately 10 youths came outside your house, sat on your car, and drank, swore and fought amongst each other. Every afternoon. When you need to leave to move your car, they find it incredibly amusing to intimidate you. Squaring up to you, swearing at you, the whole group laughing at you, refusing to get off the car. Inevitably, the householder who strikes out at them and pushes them off the car gets assaulted by the group, because their brains now think "its self defence, he started it". The person who ignores it and retreats back into the house is the subject of huge amusement to the group.

The police arrive and are called. "They are all under 18 and drinking in the street." Technically, and not a lot of people realise this, not illegal. With whats been said above, not a lot to arrest them on. Inevitably, they'll be moved on, laughing about it, and repeat the process elsewhere, to someone else. ASBO's are our chance of stopping this before it inevitably moves on into the criminal offences in which someone says "It was one of them group of 15 that did it." Great! Which one? "Dunno, but definitely one of them. Do something about it."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Crimefighters

The Policemans Blog is talking about shifts, and how the work of policing our towns and cities appears to be spread unfairly across the many different departments available to the modern officer.

A response officer is the person that will come out to you if you dial 999, and are deemed worthy of seeing an officer. They are also the people who will most likely come and talk to you if you come to the police station with your problem. They'll talk to you, they'll fill in loads of nice friendly forms, probably helpfully explaining to you at the time that they will be filling in a XG20, XG20.1, MG11, MG6F, and a JK101(a). If you're REALLY lucky they'll take the time to explain what the purpose of each of the, apparently identical, forms are. Thats if they even know of course. Once you've finished talking to them, they'll take all of their forms away, and send them away to be copied again by someone else. Then, more likely than not, they will cross their fingers and hope that they never see your forms again, and hope that they get given to someone else to investigate.

This time though, they are unlucky, and they come back to the same officer for further investigation. No matter, the officer is a responsible, capable police officer, and the only reason that he didn't want your report is that he already has 24 others that he is trying to investigate anyway. He's finally got 10 minutes free time now, so he's going to do a quick enquiry - if he can arrest someone and therefore tie himself up in this 10 minute window, he'll probably get the whole report cleared once he's filled in form gh100 through 500, and the MG series of course. Its not going to be your investigation dealt with now though - thats now 25th on the list, so please don't keep ringing asking how its going. Its only painful to both of us to tell you how little we've been able to do.

This is the job of a response officer. Attend, deal, take details, submit forms and repeat. Try to deal with own forms whereever possible. The new probationer does not lose all hope though, as fortunately, there are countless other departments in the station which can assist. We have Domestic Violence Units, Hate Crime Units, Community Safety Units, Drug Advisory units, Tactical Professional Strategic Units. So, the new probationer takes their domestic violence offence upstairs to the DVU. They have a look at it.

"Yes, thats definitely domestic violence. Heres what you have to do..."
Ten minutes later the probationer says "Oh right... sorry, I thought you might want to investigate this, as you have had a lot more training, know the names and addresses of the people involved, have spoken to them before, know everything to do and... isn't that what you do?... Its not? Oh. Ok. Well, doesn't matter, I am quite happy anyway, as a lot of what you just said I was going to do anyway - at least I got something right!"
"In that case, you'd better do this as well..." (and this is exactly the reason why I refer to the officer here as a probationer - you only make the mistake of delibrately visiting the offices of these teams once.)

The same sort of reply comes from the other teams. You see, the secret is that they are not set up to deal with the problems for which they are named, they are simply there to identify those problems to us, just in case we'd missed them, and direct us in what we should now do. Oh well, at least it makes the sergeant's job easier. Directing us in what to do used to be his/her responsibility, at least now s/he can just say "Go and see the XXX Unit", and it gives him/her more time to check all of our forms and copy them out twice.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

How to fight crime: Lesson 101

Brian's Brief Encounters is currently talking about the problems in putting "Bobbys on the beat". Through the many, many, statistically biased public surveys that the government and police forces conduct across the country, they have found that the thing that the public most want is "More bobbys on the beat". Unfortunately, the public are wrong. Thats not what you want - honest.

Let me explain it - you want less crime, right? Ok, so let me give you the following scenario: I'm Billy the Burglar/Car Thief/Pick Pocket/Robber. I'm going out to burgle/steal. Its what I do. If I go onto one street where I see a policeman, I'm going to take the surprising decision to ply my trade elsewhere, where I can't see a policeman. Then I'm going to run away, knowing that there is at least one less policeman in the area that isn't going to catch me. Mr Policeman hasn't stopped me earning my wage, he has just caused me the slight inconveinence of having to drive to an area further away. No matter, I'll just steal a tiny bit more to cover the petrol.

High visibility policing does not catch criminals - not even they are stupid enough to commit crime right in front of us - well not all of them anyway. All it does is temporarily stop the problem, or move it elsewhere onto a different area. More 'bobbys on the beat' would only be effective if you could put a policeman onto every street in the country, 24 hours of the day, which just isn't feasible.

Personally, I would rather put all of the resources into catching criminals rather than preventing crime. You can't prevent crime, you can only pause it and move it, but when you catch a criminal you stop them for a short time at least, depending on the stance of the courts towards them. Give me a plain clothes operation over "Hi-vising" any day. Unfortunately, the stance of most police forces seems to be "If we can force this problem away onto someone elses area, we don't have to worry about it anymore.".

Whats it all about?

Hi. First a little bit about myself. I'm a serving police officer, who began reading blogs when one of my colleagues (my sergeant at the time actually) pointed me towards The Policemans Blog. I read it and was hooked, and from it found a number of other blogs that I now read regularly. Reading all of the stories made me want to post some of my own... but for the time being at least, I'm not going to be doing that too much! The reason for this is that I would like to be careful - as I said, it was a sergeant who told me about blogs, and I know that my colleagues and supervisors could read this, and I don't want to give away too many clues about my identity! I would like to remain a-non-y-mouse for the time being at least. :)

So, I found myself thinking, what can I write about instead? Well, I decided, I like to put across my point of view on the subject matter of the day, and like to hear of other people's points of view. Therefore, what this blog will mostly be doing is talking about the other five blogs that I read, the points they are discussing, and putting my side of the subject across. I welcome your comments, especially if they disagree with my own, because I like a good debate, and would like to convert you to my own viewpoint, which is, of course, the correct one. ;)

Lastly, if you have a blog which you think you would like to tell me about, let me know. I'll read it. If I like it, I'll link to it, and I'll start talking about it in this blog also.

I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I hope I enjoy writing it.

The First Post

Welcome to my blog. More about it in a bit, let me just set things up in here. :)