KMTV Paul on Politics - and our Philosophy of Crime prevention.

Crime KMTV

How can a community respond to (the more common) types of Crime?

Currently this episode of Paul on Politics looks to have been redacted.

Thank you very much to the people at Paul on Politics for having me on the show on the 28th January though the episode now seems to be unavailable (despite episodes from both the 21st January and the 11th February being available).

The main substantive issue discussed was fly-tipping and it is possible that this episode was removed because I praised some robust (but I believe legal) grassroots responses to fly tipping in the worst effected fly tipping location we have historically seen in Ash.

Interestingly the KMTV produced clip on rural fly tipping vividly showed the ineffectiveness of an electronic-surveillance-led approach to the crime (showing an interview with a farmer whose CCTV system had itself been stolen). On the other hand, I do think a robust community response can be part of a solution to most common types of crime and, if anything, I probably understated this during the programme.

I want to examine two theories of crime prevention and policing. The first we might call the "wolf, sheep, shepherd" model, tactically promoted by many official sources. This sees the criminal as the wolf and the ordinary citizen as the livestock, to be protected by the shepherd (a role taken by the police). In my view this is likely always to be an ineffective model, not least because the police can never be numerous enough to cover all areas (and, perhaps, in a free society, they also ought not to be).

A better approach, in my view, is the infantry/cavalry model. Which sees us ordinary subjects (acting under the law) as the first line of defense against crime, and the police as the cavalry, to be called upon particularly to deal with the threats which the people cannot cope with directly, but also to support and inspire the public to respond with a well judged level of human courage, on the rare occasions when we see a crime in progress.

This kind of inspiration is far easier to achieve if people can identify the police as "one of us". This is, I hope, the thinking behind the (now trite) saying that the police need to "look like the community they serve". However, those who trot out this phrase often limit its application to the ticking of certain equality and diversity boxes. If this idea is to have value, it must be extended to the method of patrolling, and the kit used.

It needs to be appreciated that a traditional police officer, tackling criminals armed with nothing more than a radio and a (hardly ever used) metal stick, and often patrolling alone, is much more likely to inspire members of the public than an officer jangling with electric shock firearms, body cameras etc. (what Peter Hitchens called in his book, "the abolition of Britain" - "paramiliatary style" equipment).

In actual fact it is in the best tradition of British policing that members of the public (who feel able to) directly defend their community. As Robert Peal put it, the police are civilians turning their full time attention to duties incumbent upon all of of us, on a part time basis.

However, this is generally not the model that is promoted at an official level today, and it is more common to suggest members of the public are merely "the eyes and ears" of the police, and (with the push for greater electronic surveillance) perhaps even this is now considered an optional extra. An increasing litigiousness has also, sadly, seen workers sometimes being told explicitly, as company policy, that they are not to intervene to prevent thefts.

Clearly people's circumstances vary, and each of us must make our own decisions; the best community response to crime will normally involve an overlapping tapestry of both police and citizen responses, but those who feel able to, for example, chase after a shop lifter (and there is a bit of a tradition of that locally), or give a hard time to someone they spot using illegal drugs in public (such that the experience is rendered unenjoyable for the drug user) or, indeed, those who use a certain level of force against fly tippers on the access road to their small community, should, in my view, feel justified in doing - so long as a jury would consider the force used to be reasonable in the circumstances.

Furthermore I'm fairly sure these ideas receive fairly widespread acceptance locally, in fact, this may be one of the reasons why many types of crimes are rather uncommon locally.