Darren Oxbrow is a Sergeant in the Suffolk Constabulary, heading up the C & YP and Schools Engagement team. In the latest of our regular series of articles written by the Team, Darren discusses what community policing means and how we can all contribute towards a safer neighbourhood with more social and interactive connection. We want to create debate with young people and show that the Police are an active community partner; both looking to find solutions, but open to views and ideas from the public.
I suppose the question is “What constitutes Community Policing?” and within that what are the expectations of the public.
Community policing, focuses on crime and social disorder through the delivery of a police service that includes aspects of traditional law enforcement, as well as prevention, problem-solving, community engagement, and partnerships. The community policing model balances reactive responses to calls for service with proactive problem-solving, centred on the causes of crime and disorder.
Community policing requires police, the public and our partners to work together. So, by its own wording Community requires us all to take an active interest in how our neighbourhood is policed. I suppose if we all accept responsibility, work together and make the community our business – for example knowing who lives in our homes, holding regular neighbourhood meetings and having a better social and interactive connection with those who live in our locality – we would undertake and deliver a lot of this work.
Has the diverse nature of our communities, the change in our activities and our means of communication, pushed us all into a state of isolation and self- obsession? At this moment in time Suffolk Constabulary is going through change and I would suspect that the change may impact on our ability to provide Community policing that the public want or desire. Suffolk Constabulary is currently contemplating how it intends to work with our neighbourhoods and communities in the future.
Can we continue to have officers patrolling our streets, their attendance at neighbourhood meetings, their support at community events and their engagement with schools and other young people establishments? All of the above is important to ensure Police continue to be part of each and every community; having those continued links so the public know where to go and who to speak with in order for their concerns and issues to be listened to and also acted upon.
But likewise, the police also want this to be a two way communication – so there is a need to have some serious thought around our ability to provide a police service which continues to have the Community and our neighbourhoods at the heart of it.
Who takes the lead and is responsible for community activities?
The police will lead on crime and incidents which require investigation, but this should not be a lonely path for the police, there should be adequate support from the community. This could be providing information, informing the police of ongoing local issues & suspicious activity; the public looking for and finding solutions to their own problems and delivering their own crime prevention and crime reduction advice.
The police can’t be everywhere or see everything. But we have a huge number of eyes and ears in the community who can. Schools, doctors, social care teams, health visitors, milkmen, postmen, refuge workers, care homes for the elderly, housing organisations, childcare centres and other educational or residential establishments, plus shops, cafés, garages, restaurants, churches and volunteers; all these and more are part of and have a responsibility to respond to community issues.
Standing together, showing a united front, being a good neighbour are all important if we are to rid our communities of crime. Often people ignore cries for help and assistance. We are, at times, too afraid to speak out or get involved, but we can if we all do it as a collective and have a supportive network around us. This is about asking the Community, “What can you do to make Suffolk a safer place to live, work, travel and invest?”.
We all know that the requirement of the police service is to investigate and detect crime, especially around violent crime and those which cause communities the greatest impact and concerns.
Does having a Police officer or Police Community Support Officer walking through your local estate in fact prevent crime? Should the police continue to offer reassurance patrols, high visibility policing, proactive patrols in high crime locations? Is this balanced against the need to make savings, address the reduction in staff, the more demanding needs and a change in behaviours & offending, linked to on-line activity?
I believe Suffolk Constabulary is in a good place and offers its communities a good service around Community Policing. We have our Neighbourhood teams, we have a network of Police Community Support Officers and we have a schools’ programme, all with excellent engagement and joint working. But there are still opportunities to improve.
Community Policing requires us all to work together. Suffolk Police is committed to community policing and continues to build those strong relationships with both our partners and the communities we serve.