Police chief goes on virtual tour to understand South Yorkshire's crime fears

Covid-19 has disrupted our lives in so many ways – holidays cancelled, weddings on hold, Christmas in doubt, jobs and firms hanging by a thread.

Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 4:45 pm
In these Covid times, Dr Billings uses Google Maps to get a feel for places

In my case, at this time of year, I am usually on the road a lot, travelling across South Yorkshire to some of the smaller town and villages, attending meetings of parish councils and community groups.

I do this to hear what’s on people’s minds about policing, crime and anti-social behaviour in their area.

I do it also because between now and January I have to determine the priorities for the police for the financial year starting in April 2021, and set the budget.

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Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner

Resources are finite, so decisions have to be made about what capabilities are needed, where resources should be and what can be afforded.

Á judgement then has to be made about how much will be needed from council tax if the priorties are to be met, and how much people can bear.

As I travel I can also get a feel for places. I could look up places on a map, but it is only when you have to make your way on a dark autumn evening to, say, Moorends or Thorne or Branton that you realise the distances between places and how long it might take to get a police vehicle there.

And although some issues remain fairly constant – off-road biking, car theft or residential burglary – sometimes new patterns of crime or anti-social behaviour emerge and I need to hear about that and try to understand what may be happening and how we might combat it.

But these are not normal times. Organisations are not meeting – or rather, they are not meeting in any building. They are meeting remotely on Teams or Zoom or Skype.

So I am doing the same, and welcome invitations from organisations as before, though now attending virtually.

As I write, for instance, I am just confirming I will be joining a meeting of Barnburgh with Harlington Parish Council on November 18.

So before meetings I will make a journey to a place via Google Maps to get that feel for distance and what a place looks like and then meet people virtually.

Perhaps it has a plus side. If I don’t give straight answers to straight questions, the chairman can always mute me.

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