Monday, August 27, 2007

Street Murder

One of the most shocking things about the nightmare shooting of 11 year old Rhys Jones is the fact that Merseyside Police have been so derelict at protecting the local community.

Because it turns out that last April they were supposed to set up a mobile patrol unit (a "pod"), targeting burgeoning youth crime, on the very pub carpark where Rhys died:

"The £22,000 of funding had been approved to build the unit, and permission had been given by the pub landlord to use a portion of the car park for the site. But when the residents' association announced to the community that the pod would be arriving in April, police said they did not have the resources to follow the project through.

The nearest police station is at Aintree, a 15-minute drive away, and the area lost its local policeman, "Robbie the Bobbie", two years ago. [A member of the residents association] said that the community had been becoming concerned by the lack of police presence. "It was rare that you ever saw police on the estate", she said. "The residents said loud and clear that we needed to have more police."

Merseyside Police will cost taxpayers £307.3m this year, or some £500 per local household. According to their Strategy Plan, they pursue "Total Policing"- "total war on crime, total care to victims, and total professionalism... blitzing antisocial behaviour... Tackling Gang Related Crime... etc" (for their glossy Sweeney style video report see here).

Unfortunately, their performance doesn't live up to their hard-man rhetoric. As their report indirectly acknowledges, there were a shocking 2,000 "life threatening and gun crimes last year", 50% over their own target, and getting on for 1.5 per 1000 population. Their own Performance Assessment rates them as Poor.

Merseyside Police have 4,500 officers, or 3 per 1000 population. But as per, their approach is reactive rather than proactive. And as this case tragically underlines, even when frightened residents do manage to extract a promise of proper local policing, they can't depend on the police to actually deliver it.


Following Rhys's death, the Primrose Hill solution of private security patrols must be sounding very attractive to residents of the Croxteth Park Estate, sandwiched as it is between two warring gang council estates. But it costs Primrose Hill households £1,000 pa each, which may be more than locals can afford (see this blog). Cheaper alternatives do suggest themselves, possibly involving some of the battle-hardened Scousers currently leaving in droves from our overstretched army.

Elected sheriffs also have an important role, as we've blogged many times. In this case it would have been much more difficult for the police to renege on their promises if their chief was facing re-election. Much more difficult to wriggle out of that than simply ticking a few more boxes for Whitehall.

And then of course, there is the huge amount we must do to toughen up our criminal justice system (see many previous blogs eg gathered here).

Meanwhile, the killing goes on and another innocent child is dead. And those of us who live in the relative safety of leafy enclaves down South should feel ashamed we have not forced our politicians to make the changes the people in less fortunate places so desperately need.

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