Back to the future for neighbourhood policing

Innovation: Police working from the Kendray station have been credited with producing 'fantastic' work.
Innovation: Police working from the Kendray station have been credited with producing 'fantastic' work.
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A pilot scheme for the re-introduction of neighbourhood policing in South Yorkshire has proved so successful that senior officers are now in talks which could see officers moved from duties reacting to 999 calls to taking on preventative work instead.

South Yorkshire Police has gone through a period of upheaval following a decision several years ago to scrap neighbourhood policing as a cost-saving measure, something which was proved to be a mistake.

Over the last year neighbourhood teams have been re-introduced to communities with Barnsley used as a test-bed for the rest of the force and that has proved so successful the work could now be expanded further.

Since neighbourhood officers were redeployed in Barnsley, levels of anti-social behaviour have crashed by 20 per cent and officers have also recorded positive results with operations to combat house burglary and rural crime.

They have also begun working more closely with other agencies – an acceptance that there are some problems which cannot be solved by policing alone and that partnership approach is also expected to be expanded further.

In Barnsley that already means working closely with the council and mental health workers who operate alongside officers.

Neighbourhood policing works because officers forge links with communities which allows them to work in ways which will both prevent crimes from happening in the first place and to feed back intelligence information which can be invaluable in tackling the criminals who are active.

Barnsley has also two recruits from the Police Now scheme, using graduates on a two year secondment to find new ways to tackle existing problems, with the prospect of a long-term policing career, should they want to continue with the force.

Chief Supt Scott Green, Barnsley’s district police commander, said: “It is early days for the force on Police Now but the two we have in Barnsley are fantastic and are making a very real difference.

“Our intention over the next 12 months is to bring in further partners and we have ongoing discussions with statutory and non-statutory partners, who have seen the benefits,” he said.

“There is an aspiration to add more officers. I think we are in a position for that now, I am in discussion with political leaders and council officers about establishing another neighbourhood team.”

That would involve the “modest” use of officers to contribute to the neighbourhood service from the traditional policing role of responding to problems as they are reported.

“We have seen a sustained reduction in anti social behaviour across the whole of Barnsley,” he said.

Some of that reduction may be attributed to incidents being reported as crimes rather than lower rated problems, but the trend is being linked to the presence of neighbourhood teams.

Police are also benefitting from the use of “creative” civil legislation, such as an injuction to ban anyone without reason to be there from a town centre car park which had become a magnet for troublemakers.

A further development had been the use of Public Space Protection Orders to give police more powers to act at locations including the town centre and the public transport interchange.

As a result of action by the authorities, numbers of anti-social behaviour reports there had been more than halved since new tactics were introduced, he said.

Because of the techniques used to tackle problems, police said they had seen no evidence of displacing crime from the areas where they had been focused to other locations, he added.

Between the police and council, Barnsley has now been divided up into different ‘neighbourhood profiles’, which are used by both organisations to identify the features of local areas, allowing them to respond with work tailored to the needs of those who live there.