All South Yorkshire’s prisons are in Doncaster and that has historically created a tremendous draw on resources, accounting for up to 10 per cent of all police resources in that area.
But a rethink of how police handle such incidents – in conjunction with the prison service – have produced dramatic results which have been described at the recent National Prisons Conference as a “benchmark” for how police support prisons.
Changes have included establishing a police prisons team, with expert understanding of the type of crimes which occur in and around prisons, but also the creation of a Prisons Board, including senior prisons staff, police, the council and Crown Prosecution Service.
The police’s crime training department have also created a training course for prison officers, meaning they now have the skills to take statements and preserve crime scenes – tasks the authorities would have previously relied on police to carry out.
Doncaster’s area commander, Chief Supt Shaun Morley, said: “We have done a lot of proactive work within the prisons estate and around the prisons estate.
“There has been a 50 per cent reduction in numbers of crimes and issues that have taken place within prisons,” he told a meeting of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings’ Public Accountability Board.
That board holds the South Yorkshire force to account for its performance and Dr Billings said: “I guess a lot of the public don’t realise crime goes on in prison as well as outside.”
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “It is good we are getting national recognition.
“As you can imagine, people ask if police should be putting so much effort into it, but we are able to balance demand.
“Police officers need looking after and we need to take a positive stance to make sure they are not assaulted.
“If we can disrupt criminals inside prison and get them additional custodial time, it helps communities.
“They can be managed and pose less of a risk to the community. We are very judicious with the resources we put in,” he said.