New neighbourhood policing plans to reverse ‘wrong’ £8m cuts

South Yorkshire Police
South Yorkshire Police
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The new man in charge of South Yorkshire Police is set to draw up new plans to reverse £8 million cuts to neighbourhood policing made under his controversial predecessor David Crompton.

Stephen Watson said he intends to establish a new policing model with a greater focus on neighbourhood policing in the near future.

26 July 2016...Interin Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Stephen Watson. Picture Scott Merrylees

26 July 2016...Interin Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Stephen Watson. Picture Scott Merrylees

“There are some tiers of criminality which go beyond the reach of neighbourhood policing,” he said.

“It is not the answer to everything – but it is part of the answer to everything.

“Effective neighbourhood policing means youngsters involved in petty criminality today do not become involved in serious organised crime tomorrow.”

It comes after a recent College of Policing review of South Yorkshire Police said the cuts made under previous management had been ‘flawed’ and were not working.

South Yorkshire Police

South Yorkshire Police

The force cut £8m from neighbourhood policing budgets by removing dedicated teams of knowledgeable local officers who dealt specifically with longer-term community issues instead of just responding to crime reports.

Under the new model, all officers became responsible for responding to incidents and ‘having a neighbourhood focus’.

But the College of Policing report said: “SYP has significant resource allocated to reactive ‘response’ policing to the detriment of dedicated neighbourhood officers.

“Neighbourhood Policing was cut by £8m-plus during the last Comprehensive Spending Review and without exception everyone we spoke to at every level of management believed this was a flawed decision and that the replacement ‘hybrid’ model wouldn’t work. It clearly isn’t working and has recently been reviewed with the general consensus being it needs putting back.”

Suspended chief constable David Crompton

Suspended chief constable David Crompton

Mr Watson would not say whether he agreed Mr Crompton and his management team had made a mistake with the plans, but added the force was now ‘in the wrong place’ on the issue.

He said getting neighbourhood policing right be would ‘crucial’ to restoring the force’s reputation with the public following a series of recent scandals.

“We are not in the right place in terms of neighbourhood policing,” he said.

“While it was not necessarily intended, the practical effect of recent changes is some of our communities have seen our neighbourhood offer as representing something of an unwelcome withdrawal from communities.”

Community Support Officers patrol the city centre

Community Support Officers patrol the city centre

Mr Watson said that when done properly, knowledgeable local policing teams can deal with potential problems when they are at a small scale rather than becoming something more serious.

“We understand that it is about reducing demand,” he said.

“In the fullness of time, I fully expect to see fewer officers running around with blue lights on chasing their tails as neighbourhood policing will reduce some of the demand.”

He said a process of finding a new way of prioritising neighbourhood policing will start soon before a new model is introduced.

“Effective neighbourhood police officers know who are the members of organised crime groups, who are the registered sex offenders. They know where vulnerable people live and where the people who would do vulnerable people harm live.

“The fact of the matter is people who become involved in organised crime, people who are susceptible to being radicalised, all live somewhere.

“That is how effective neighbourhood policing makes a difference.”

Police commissioner Alan Billings said one of the reasons Mr Watson had been appointed as the force’s new chief constable was his understanding of the issues raised in the College of Policing review, which also highlighted concerns about low staff morale following job cuts that had ‘not been well thought through’.

Dr Billings said: “The review has established a number of areas that need addressing.

“He cottoned on to what the issues were very quickly and I was very impressed he understood what the big issues were that we have been faced with. Neighbourhood policing was one of them.”