Policing boost after Doncaster identified as “running light” on numbers

Boost: Doncaster is to get more neighbourhood police
Boost: Doncaster is to get more neighbourhood police
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Doncaster is expected to get a policing boost after Chief Constable Stephen Watson conceded the town had been “running light” in terms of officer numbers.

The South Yorkshire force is currently recruiting 40 new officers and almost half of them will be allocated to Doncaster, a far higher number than the town would normally justify in terms of its population size.

But Mr Watson said the decision to allocate 17 of those to the district was a recognition of the level of resources the town had at present.

“The truth of it is that Doncaster has been running light for some time,” he said.

“This is an attempt to shore that up.”

The officers allocated to Doncaster are from a quota of 30 extra staff who will be diverted into neighbourhood policing duties from the overall 40 new recruits.

Neighbourhood policing is now well established across the county, following a decision to re-introduce officers to that role in the last two years.

The work has been credited with helping to drive down demand at many of the town’s hot-spots for police attention, locations such as shops which have seen frequent calls for assistance.

Putting more officers into the area will mean work in communities can be intensified further, with the aim of reducing long-term problems for both residents and ‘reactive’ police, who answer 999 calls.

Doncaster is a challenging area for police, partly because it has several prisons which generate incidents police have to investigate.

Work has now been done to start to address that problem, with the prisons themselves beginning to take on some of the tasks previously done by South Yorkshire Police when incidents do occur.

The Mexborough district has also seen gang-related crime problems recently, with suspicions of links to Sheffield, and work has been done to address those issues before they became too deeply embedded.

The decision to put so many new officers into Doncaster was made as a result of detailed research, said Mr Watson.

“The whole of our neighbourhood model was based on sophisticated demand modelling,” he said.

“We have looked at crime, anti-social behaviour, all the things which drive the requirement for police services. We used an allocation formula.”

He was speaking at a meeting of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, the body which holds Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings to account.

The force is working on the expectation that in the long term, neighbourhood officers will have enough of an impact on demand levels – by finding solutions to persistent problems – that some of their colleagues on ‘response’ duties, dealing with emergencies, will be freed up to strengthen neighbourhood based units further still.

That is what senior officers call a ‘virtuous cycle’ and has the theory has already been proven to work in some parts of the county.