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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK
Beat bobby experiment 'fails'
Police officers
More police does not mean less crime, according to the report
An experiment to provide a village with its own dedicated "bobby on the beat" has been abandoned after it was found to increase people's fear of crime.

The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) paid 25,000 a year for an additional 24 hours of police time a week for New Earswick, near York.

The aim was to increase police visibility on the streets and reduce offending.

But the project has been dumped almost a year early after researchers found the results failed to match public expectations, resulting in increased worry over crime.

The study, from the University of Leeds, found that although there was a 5% drop in crime during the project's first year the figure shot up by 99% the following year.

Overall report findings
Recorded crime doubled
Fear of crime rose
Dissatisfaction with police rose to 40%
Project failed to meet public expectations

Recorded crime in the surrounding area also rose during the same period although less steeply.

There was also a rise in the number of residents in the 1,000-home village who felt unsafe going outside after dark while dissatisfaction with the police rose from 30 to 40%.

The discouraging findings come at the same time the Conservative Party reaffirmed its pledge to put an extra 40,000 police officers on the streets if they win the next general election.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has also placed tackling street crime at the forefront of government policy with 4,000 new officers set to start patrolling during the autumn.

Professor Adam Crawford, co-author of the report, said: "One of the key lessons to be learned from this well-intentioned attempt to make residents feel more secure is that trying to tackle local order problems through policing and security alone can have the opposite effect.

"In New Earswick, the initiative was undermined from the start by a widening gap between what the police were able to deliver and the heightened expectations of local people."

Unfortunately the reality did not live up to the expectation
Geoff Bunce, residents' spokesman
Jacquie Dale, of the JRHT which manages the village, said that despite paying for extra policing it was almost impossible for the project to deliver.

She added: "Residents' expectations were never met and fear of crime levels did not diminish as had been hoped."

Residents' spokesman Geoff Bunce was one of those who recommended the termination of the project which started in 2000.

He said: "Unfortunately the reality did not live up to the expectation.

"However, I still believe....we can all make a difference to the community around us."

The report pointed to problems caused by staff turnover with three different officers filling the community police officer post during the project and four different managers overseeing it.

Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin
The Tories are committed to putting more police on the streets
The officer was also often called away to deal with incidents outside of the village or cover for colleagues elsewhere.

North Yorkshire Police said they agreed with the general conclusions of the report.

In a statement they added: "This was a well-meaning experiment which failed to achieve its goals.

"It is now apparent that the basic idea of divorcing an operational officer from the general demands of operational policing on a wider front were flawed from the outset.

"We are still totally committed to the concept of working with our communities to provide the kind of policing service they expect to receive."

But Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin said the failure of the project would not impact upon Tory policy making.

Speaking from the party conference in Blackpool he said: "The experience of New York and other American cities shows that proper neighbourhood policing, with police officers regularly patrolling every street, has had a dramatic effect in reducing crime.

"There is absolutely no doubt that the way to tackle our current law and order crisis is to put many more officers on the beat.

"That is why I have committed the next Conservative government to recruiting 40,000 new officers."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We will study this report with interest as soon as we receive it.

"The risk of becoming a victim of crime is still historically low at 27%, around the same level as 1981."




SEE ALSO:
Hanging call overshadows Letwin
07 Oct 03  |  Politics
Blunkett vows to curb gun crime
02 Oct 03  |  Politics
Tories pledge huge police rise
10 Sep 03  |  Wales
Blunkett's police pledge to villagers
08 Jun 03  |  South Yorkshire
Bobbies on the beat on bikes
07 Apr 03  |  North Yorkshire


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