Monday, 3 February 2020

The UK Invisible Police Force

It's That Simple

When Police Foot Patrols Stop, Stabbings Rise

Peter Hitchens
Mail On Sunday

How quickly we get used to evil. Stabbings in the streets, once incredibly rare in this country, are now common in big cities and become more so every year. It is unwise to get involved if you see anyone behaving strangely in a public place, or on a train or a bus.

There are so many cases which show that even a polite attempt to call for calm can end with a knife in the guts that my intervening days are definitely over.

I have my own ideas about why this is, which have much to do with marijuana. But there is another element to it, which a new survey has uncovered. Plenty of people see these killings and know who did them. But in a lot of cases they will not give evidence in court.  A BBC survey has just found that youth workers, police and prosecutors believe witnesses are afraid for their own safety.

Julius Capon, head of the Homicide Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service in London, says: 'In most of the gang violence that we prosecute, there are witnesses who have plainly seen something which would be relevant to the prosecution but are not prepared to give evidence.'

He wants people to stand up and be counted, but can't he see what is happening? The police force has been largely absent from the streets of this country for decades now.  They may appear for brief raids or shows of force, or very temporary foot patrols restored for a few days to areas where something terrible has happened.

And how nostalgic they look, even though the officers involved plainly feel awkward out of their cars, like crabs forced to abandon their shells, and have little idea of the areas in which they find themselves.

But the old sense that they gave – that somebody was in charge and that it would never be long before authority showed its face – has quite simply gone. I'll say it again in case someone, somewhere is listening in government.

This has nothing to do with the numbers of officers. It is caused by the police decision to react to crime after it has happened, rather than prevent it by a convincing public presence. A police officer may prevent stabbings, muggings and burglaries. But he or she cannot unstab, unmug or unburgle you. So simple, you'd think even an MP could grasp it. But they don't. But this is about the separate question of deterrence and justice.

Where crimes have not been prevented, they must be detected and the culprits found, prosecuted, found guilty in fair trials and given deterrent sentences.

This will not happen in a country where people are more afraid of criminals than they are of the police. And this is the kind of country we are increasingly becoming, because the police, however many of them there are, are simply not there.

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