Police chief vows to put bobbies back on the beat in South Yorkshire

Stephen Watson
Stephen Watson

Police chiefs have vowed to put bobbies back on the beat in a bid to regain communities and keep one step ahead of criminals.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson, was speaking at an event organised by The Star and BBC Radio Sheffield to discuss the state of South Yorkshire Police today and the vision for the future.

He said investing in neighbourhood policing was key and admitted cutting neighbourhood officers over the years to save cash had been a mistake.

Chf Con Watson and Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings said the cuts had resulted in police ‘losing touch’ with communities.

Dr Billings said: “Neighbourhood policing – local policing – was allowed to slip away last year. That got the police into a very bad place. They became out of touch with their communities.”

Chf Con Watson added: “If neighbourhood policing is about anything it should be about putting communities on the front foot.

“I don’t like the idea of communities feeling under the cosh. It should be bad people doing bad things to good people. People who should feel frightened are criminals and thugs, not good people. We are there to stand on the side of good people.”

He said having officers embedded in local communities would help the fight against crime.

And moving police back into communities was for ‘more than a visible presence’ but to offer ‘practical problem solving with partners’ to prevent small issues becoming big problems.

The chief constable said the force had ‘failed’ with its neighbourhood policing model in the past and he would take officers off ‘response teams’ to prevent crime rather than reacting to it.

“I am not going to be able to open up a box of fresh bobbies. It does not mean a return to the days where you would see a uniformed bobby on every corner,” he said.

“In South Yorkshire we have 400 more response officers than they have in the West Midlands and they are three times as busy.

“We are too reactive and too busy responding to stuff.

“The only way to change that is to get upstream and stop little issues becoming big issues.

“Neighbourhood policing is not the answer to everything but it’s part of the answer to everything.

“If you have local bobbies who know local people, they do have a happy knack of getting upstream.

“If you have people on the ground who know who you are talking about you can be much better at intervening much earlier.

“We are going to reinvent a neighbourhood policing offer worth the name. We have failed in that regard, we have missed a trick and we are in a bad place.

“If we can get our people back into the fabric of communities they can be better at sharing with people what we are doing.

“At least some, if not many, of the communities of South Yorkshire feel that we are too distant.”

Dr Billings said he is concerned about the number of police stations which have closed over the years and wants a review of all police buildings and plans to close others.

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