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StreetBeat

INTRODUCTION

The essence of my research project is to look at whether the public's perceptions of policing and the service they expect the police to provide differ from what the police actually deliver or are prepared to deliver.

I have been employed by Norfolk Constabulary as Press and Public Relations Officer for the last eight years. In that time I have been aware of what I felt to be conflicting views between the police and public. There was never anything concrete to support these views and they may have been based on perceptions and my own prejudices and built around my own thought patterns over the years.

For this reason I decided to find out whether there was sufficient evidence to back up my thoughts about the differences in this particular supply and demand field. I wanted to find out whether the public and police hold diametrically opposed views and if so to find out whether there was any middle ground or just two different bodies with one (the public) asking for something unobtainable and the other (the police) steadfastly sticking with an arrogant assumption that they really know what is best for the public.

I began my research with a number of basic and maybe misguided pre-conceptions and assumptions which included the following.

  1. That the public is dissatisfied with what they consider to be an inadequate uniformed and visible police presence on the streets.
  2. That the public want more beat patrol officers
  3. That the police, with only finite resources, are unable to provide what the public want and expect.

I believed when I started the research that the public wanted a return to the cosy "Dixon of Dock Green" style of personal policing whilst Norfolk Constabulary is unable to provide this in the essentially high-tech 1990s. We are living in a vastly different world to the 1950s/60s scenario of policing as portrayed on television by such programmes as Dixon of Dock Green and Heartbeat. Today our vast ability to assimilate huge amounts of data on computers has itself led to whole departments being set up to deal with intelligence on criminals.

This has led to the targeting of more serious criminals and at the same time has brought a drop in the crime rate.

"There is no doubt in my mind that being able to track and link criminals has helped to cut the crime rate in the county," said a sergeant who works on the computer side of the Force.

This reliance on "computer detection" has put pressure on any attempts to increase the number of officers on the streets.

In 1995, 51,333 crimes were recorded in Norfolk compared with 66,769 in 1992 when crime in the county hit record levels.

During my research many of my perceptions were changed and I will explain how and why this came about. I also came to realise during my research what a complex subject I was investigating.

THE FOCUS

Initially my research project seemed to be far too wide and demanding. I realised immediately that I could not undertake all-embracing research for the whole of the county.

I therefore decided to concentrate on a small "snapshot" area which I hoped would be representative of the county. I chose the village of Hethersett primarily because I have lived there and been involved in the local community for 17 years. Many of my pre-conceptions came from moving around the village and seeing the vandalism and results of crime on individuals. I was to find out, however, that my ideas on the "crime rate in Hethersett" were wrong.

Hethersett is a large village six miles south of Norwich and just off the main A11 Norwich to London Road. It is both a dormitory and commuter area for Norwich but has also maintained its village feel and character among its 5,000 inhabitants. There is a distinct green belt separating it from Norwich. The village continues to expand with a significant new development (Steepletower) on the edge of the village and, at the time of writing, plans for another 600 homes which are being opposed by the local council and the majority of householders on the grounds that too much pressure would be placed on the existing services, including policing, in the village.

Apart from private dwellings, it has an 11th century parish church, two other churches, a dental surgery, doctors' surgery, three schools including the area high school, a chemists, Chinese take-away, fish and chip shop, a number of supermarkets and other shops, a social club and two thriving public houses.

To me Hethersett is a typical large village which I anticipate would suffer the crime associated with an area of its size. It is mainly middle class in aspect and middle class in values.

My focus on Hethersett was designed to find out what the village wanted and expected from policing and whether Norfolk Constabulary were prepared or able to provide this.

METHODOLOGY

Despite concentrating on a relatively small area I decided it was important to interview and gather data via questionnaires from as many relevant people as possible. So my interviews fell into four categories.

  1. Interviews with targeted police officers and civilian police workers selected because of their knowledge of either policing the village or their expertise or views on beat-style policing.
  2. Questionnaires sent out at random to police officers (see appendix a) of all ranks from constable to superintendent. These were sent to establish general views on local policing by officers who could, during their service, be asked to provide this function. Indeed it turned out that some already had. It was also done to establish whether the views of officers differed from the views of Norfolk Constabulary itself. I selected the officers entirely at random to exclude the chance of just interviewing people whose views I already knew. I felt a random sample would give me an unbiased reflection and allow me to keep an open mind. I sent my questionnaire to reflect the number of officers in each rank with most being sent to police constables.
  3. Interviews with villagers in Hethersett and in particular people who have had personal contact with police over the past few years.
  4. A questionnaire to Hethersett businesses asking for their views on policing in the village (see appendix b)

In addition I consulted a considerable number of official policing documents (listed in appendix c) and also used a number of study centres (listed in appendix d).

My research was therefore divided into two distinct sections: A/ Police and B/ Villagers.

RESPONSE

The response to the above was mixed and posed it's own questions. I would therefore like to make a few basic comments. I found the police officers targeted for interviews were without exception helpful, forthcoming and happy to give their views. Out of a total of 38 questionnaires sent to police officers, I received 17 returns. I had no way of knowing which officers had failed to send replies or of finding out their reasons as the essence of this part of the research as described above was to respect anonymity.

The replies I received varied from simple one word answers to extensive responses running to several hundreds of words. Villagers in Hethersett were again helpful and forthcoming once again underlining my belief that most people have strong views on my subject even to the extent of being anti-police. The village questionnaires were a disappointment. They were slow coming in and a number of recipients had to be asked for a reply. Some gave very little data and some admitted that they had few views on my subject. Some simply failed to reply.

Initial Assumptions

Among my initial assumptions and the one that was central to my research was that Hethersett has been and is under-policed. This feeling was built on a personal perspective of comments made to me in the village about "never seeing a police officer" linked to my own feeling that there are too many crimes and too much vandalism in Hethersett.

Working for the Police I am aware of crimes that happen in the village almost immediately and my research soon taught me that taking the crimes in isolation is completely wrong. To come to terms with the relativity of crime, Hethersett's crime rate has to be taken within the context of the crime rate of other areas and in particular has to be compared with other areas covered by the policing sector within which the village falls. Regularly checking on the crime-rate in the village I now accept has given me a distorted view.

In addition I felt that after living in the village for over 17 years and being involved with numerous groups and organisations I had gained a feel of how its society works. My initial prejudices were numerous, however. Vandalism and crime in the village affects me. I am intolerant of both. I have little time for people who commit crime or vandalise other people's property and have little time for those who argue that social pressures and boredom lead to crime. There are enough groups and things happening in Hethersett to ensure that all members of the community aged from eight to 108 are catered for. I feel that boredom comes from within and in the young particularly is a reaction to non-conformist attitudes where "I'm bored" really stands for "I can't be bothered to do what is arranged on my behalf."

I have two sons aged 12 and 14. They are involved in football, tennis, athletics, basketball, drama, music, youth groups, scouts and many other activities in the village. I have never heard either say that they are bored.

I also have many prejudices about the police. I firmly believe that if the Chief Constable and Police Authority really wanted to put more officers on the beat it is within their power to do so. Often the reasons given - not enough officers, not enough money, not enough time - are hollow excuses for an over emphasis on having officers writing plans and planning documents instead of working in the community. The Police Force, like so many organisations has become bogged down in theory, charter marks, investors in people, annual reports and inspections, grievance and equal opportunities procedures.

I have seen crime at work in the village in vandalised phone boxes and broken windows and shop fronts. As a governor of Hethersett Middle School I was extremely angry two years ago when the school was broken into the night before the annual fete and most of the raffle prizes stolen. I was also annoyed this year when a brick was thrown through the window of the Methodist Church.

THE RESEARCH

My assumption about the village wanting more of a visible police presence was borne out two weeks after my research began when I was informed that the Parish Council was paying towards the establishment of a Parish Constable scheme in Hethersett.

"We feel that having a parish constable will give us a presence in the village and act as a deterrent to crime," one councillor said.

Unfortunately the Parish Constable scheme only provides an extremely limited amount of visual policing. Parish Constables are Special Constables who agree to give a minimum of 12 hours policing to a village per month. That works out as coverage of just three hours a week. This coverage can be varied and already positive comments have been made about the scheme. These have included the following comments from business people working in the village.

" I was aware of Special policemen walking around the village - I think it will be of benefit especially if the times of their visits are staggered."

"The Parish Constable will be extremely beneficial as a whole as people are afraid of the groups of youths hanging round the village or driving like idiots through the village."

These comments are tempered by caution, however.

"It will not always be evident if the policing is not always visible and at 12 hours a month this will not be possible."

Nevertheless it is generally accepted that the Parish Constable is a step in the right direction as a conversation with the clerk of Easton Parish Council which has a long established Parish Constable scheme proves:

"Our parish constable has got to know all the residents and has gained their confidence. This was particularly relevant in Easton where the level of petty crime and house burglaries was increasing. Our Police Liaison Officer had 15 other parishes to cover which meant he could only visit Easton when there was a definite matter to investigate....

"Now our Parish Constable is known by young and old alike and much of the petty crime has stopped."

These comments and the fact that 10 parishes/villages now employ a Parish Constable and over 30 others have shown an interest suggest to me that parish councils and residents do want a police presence on the streets, however small this may be.

This is accepted by Norfolk Constabulary but there is a tendency to avoid or try to circumnavigate the call for more full-time officers on the beat by using Parish Constables and/or Special Constables.

"Parish and special constables can never replace full time officers," one officer said.

At the present time there is a national recruiting drive for Special Constables many of whom go on to be parish constables. This drive for extra "volunteer police officers" is fully supported in Norfolk. Specials have a high profile in the community, but could be construed as a sop to the public as is suggested by one police officer.

"At the end of the day we are extremely supportive of the work and support given to us by Parish Constables and Special Constables, but we must never lose sight of the fact that these people are unpaid volunteers who are giving their time freely and there is a limit to how much we can expect them to do and how big a presence we can expect them to mount."

I asked the members of the business community in Hethersett whether they were happy with the policing levels in the village and this brought a mixed and thoughtful response which included the following comments.

"More time should be allocated to policing in Hethersett - but who would pay ?"

"Policing levels could always be improved. Although police are no doubt about, their presence is not always highly visible."

Mrs Jenny Hoult, senior librarian at Hethersett Library looked at things from a police perspective.

"I feel that an officer driving around in a car is not as effective as one walking or biking around. As so much of crime in Hethersett is petty and the police service is under pressure I can understand that they haven't the resources. If this was a perfect world I would like to see more policing but it is not and I doubt that we will get any more policing."

Most police officers I sent questionnaires to backed up community and beat policing with comments such as:

"Should this type of policing disappear the police will lose the last remaining tie with the public."

"Community policing is the backbone of policing in the UK."

"I feel that any form of policing that brings us close to the public and the community at large is essential."

"I believe we have lost our way over the last 10 years especially since the village beat houses have been sold with the beat officer now operating from a section station rather than from his house. We appear to have lost that personal touch and this reflects in the feedback from parishioners and the attitude of today's teenagers towards the police."

"Irrespective of present and forthcoming technology there will always be a requirement for community policing. Close contact with the public is vital particularly in the rural areas."

Comments such as the above outnumbered anti-community policing by about three to one although some officers held such opinions as.

"Community policing provides some feel good factor and reasssurance to the public. Operationally and cost effective policing is not suited to community policing."

"It reassures the public but is not necessarily cost effective."

When asked the question Would you support plans for a permanent uniformed presence in Norfolk Villages, once again the vote in favour was almost two to one. Comments on this included:

"A village needs its policeman. It is an old British tradition and since these type of policeman have disappeared the villages have become somewhat unstable and the crime rate has risen astronomically. From personal experience, when I took over a village in the late 60s, it had a sizzling crime rate, youth problems etc, but within six months I knew almost everyone and the crime rate dropped. Today the villages are neglected and left to run wild."

"I feel that everyone -both Police and Public - have lost a great deal since their policeman has been taken away and replaced by random policing as required. I know that in some places the quality of village life has gone down without the village bobby - a friend and someone always about in times of trouble."

The main comments against were based on a resource level.

"It is financially not viable."

"I do not support it unless there is an increase in resources which we all know is very unlikely."

"With our current resource levels such a move would be impossible."

The main challenge to my assumptions regarding the policing in Hethersett came during an extremely long interview with the man in charge of policing Hethersett - Inspector Duncan Morris.

Norfolk is divided into five policing divisions - Norwich, Southern, Northern, Western and Eastern. The greatest crime area is Norwich and the immediate surrounding area and in 1995 the number of recorded crimes in each of these divisions underlines this.

RECORDED CRIMES 1995

Total

51,333
Norwich Division 21,020
Western Division 9,218
Eastern Division 8,899

Southern Division

7,385

Northern Division 4,811
				

Hethersett comes within the Norwich Division and is policed from a small "Section Box" (a sector police station) at Tuckswood on the main Norwich ring road. It is from here that Inspector Morris controls the policing demands of a wide area which includes the large villages of Hethersett and Mulbarton along with the areas along the Norwich Ring Road including Lakenham and Eaton and all the smaller villages that encroach into South Norfolk.

Inspector Morris is an extremely experienced officer known for his forthright views and the openness with which he gives them. The interview for this project lasted over two hours both formally on tape and informally.

He was quick to point out that far from being the "hotbed of crime" that some people envisaged Hethersett to be, it was in fact an area of very low crime:

"When the officer who covers the area was checking the computer he found that there was only I believe four or five crimes committed in the Hethersett area this month (April 1996). Now when the crimes are averaging out perhaps one a week, when would you put the policing attention there because the crime, assuming that it is this average of one a week, is not predictable. It could be criminal damage done at three in the morning by a drunk returning home or it could be school children on their way to school or it could be shoplifting from the local store ....

"If you look at the Hethersett totals, the most they had in any month in 1995 was 21. Eight of those were stealing from cars which was possibly done on one or two days. But if you look at burglaries in no month in 95 was there more than three in a month. I can go back to the year before when the highest crime rate of any month was 20 with the exception of one month when somebody admitted stealing from a shop on 16 occasions."

Inspector Morris went on compare the crime figures of Hethersett with Lakenham which, as I have already stated, he also polices. In 1994 Hethersett suffered 181 crimes compared with Lakenham's 1,487. Lakenham has approximately three times the population of Hethersett but eight times the crime rate.

I firmly believe that the crux of the matter is whether there is really a commitment to beat policing in villages such as Hethersett and my research has led me to believe that this is not the case for a number of reasons.

Firstly the crime-rate in such villages does not warrant the high intensive style of policing favoured by so many people and thought of as normal in the old days. Police resources are finite. Norfolk have the worst number of police officers per head of population in the country (see appendix ). The seriousness of certain crimes has led to the formation of specific squads to deal with car crime and burglaries, vice and fraud. The formation of these squads has led to increased distraction from the streets of our towns and villages.

But many people claim that although there may be little or no serious crime in Hethersett, there are a number of factors that warrant extra patrols. These are mainly nuisance factors caused by youths in the village and led to High School Head Teacher Marion Chapman sending out a letter to parents banning children from the school's playing field after school hours for a period of two weeks:

"I regret to have to inform you that the school is suffering at the moment from the actions of a small minority of students (and non students) out of school hours. We have received complaints from residents of (----------) which should never have been necessary.

"For the next fortnight (at least) the school grounds are closed to all students/ex-students after 5.30 p.m every day and throughout the weekend. This will add to the lack of recreational facilities in Hethersett."

The behaviour Mrs Chapman was referring to including littering the field, small acts of vandalism and noise disturbing local residents - the kind of thing that could have been eradicated by beat officers, but stand little chance of being detected. Mrs Chapman's "short, sharp, shock" seemed to work as the ban was rescinded after two weeks.

Secondly there seems to be a distinct difference between what official national and local policing documents say and what is carried out. To help underline this difference I would like to quote a number of pieces from written documents which seem to wholeheartedly support the concept of beat policing in villages such as Hethersett.

A 1996 report by the Audit Commission entitled "Streetwise" accepts that the Police Service cannot always deliver what the public expects but that it should make the maximum effort to do this.

"The expectations held by the public are not wholly realistic - they want more than the police can deliver, but Police Forces are not managing the rise in demand from the public as well as they could. The time which is available for non incident work could be better targeted and have more impact on public re-assurance."

Commission representative Kate Flannery has added these additional comments:

"The police have a difficult juggling act to perform. They have to meet the public demand for a fast response to emergencies and crack down on crime as well as providing reassuring foot patrols."

Kent's Chief Constable David Phillips has neatly summed up the public's desires in his comments on the Audit Commission's report:

"The report makes clear that patrolling the street does not have much impact on serious crimes such as burglary but well directed patrolling does reduce street crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour."

This vandalism and anti-social behaviour alluded to by Chief Constable David Phillips is exactly the kind of thing that villagers want to see eradicated.

The Independent Committee of Inquiry into the Role and Responsibilities of the Police (The Cassels Report) is more specific in advocating beat policing. Among its recommendations are the following:

"A visible uniformed police presence must continue to play a significant part in modern policing and ways should be developed to enable more police patrols. Forces should listen and respond to the needs of the community it serves."

Unfortunately the report does not make any suggestions on how more police patrols can be developed.

The 1993 Sheehy Inquiry into Police Responsibility and Rewards had the following to say:

"Police officers should meet, consult and discuss with locally elected and consultative bodies so that they can take account of local policing needs.

"Patrol constables and other front line officers form the core of the police service. It is at this level that the day to day interface between police and public takes place. Public perceptions about the police service stem from such encounters. The role of the uniformed constables should be enhanced."

It can be seen from the above extracts that the back-up documentation supporting beat policing is in place, but it really isn't quite that simple. Today's police force is like a juggler asked to juggle with an ever-increasing number of implements. Eventually he gets out of his depth and drops them.

Thirdly the demands on today's Police Officers goes far beyond the simple investigation and detection of crime and the protection of the public. Today the Force becomes involved in the production of such government initiatives as Charter Mark and Performance Indicators and producing strategic plans and many other documents demanded and expected by many outside bodies. Never before have the police been so accountable to politicians and the public alike. This accountability does not extend to beat policing - the success of which cannot be quantified.

Some of the reports quoted above accept that beat policing is desirable but possibly a luxury as Norfolk Chief Constable Ken Williams stated at a meeting of Norfolk Police Authority this year:

"My priority lies in tackling violent crime, burglaries and drug offences. The public are only happy with policing when they see bobbies on the beat walking about aimlessly. I have to balance all this. The public say they want to see more constables on the streets. We have 500 parishes in the county and they all want their own Parish Constables.

"A few decades ago police officers worked seven days a week in the community. Then the modern world caught up with them. They became the subject of 40 hour weeks and service levels and today it would take five constables to carry out the function of one in the past. I can accept, however, that people want the security that patrolling officers bring."

I find myself at odds with the Chief Constable on this point. To my mind beat and community officers provide a vital presence and re-assurance factor and certainly do not just "wander aimlessly."

My comment is backed up by the head teacher of Hethersett Middle School Trevor Atkins who regularly welcomes community officers into his school.

"I cannot over emphasise the importance of police officers such as PC ---- who come into the school whenever they can. He has taught pupils how to play the drums and they all know him. This is a vital link between the children and the police and is one they will remember all their lives and which will colour their feelings. They see PC ------ as a friend and someone to be trusted and who will help them. Take this away and they will grow up suspicious of the police."

This was echoed by the Head Teacher of the High School:

"We have a very good local PC though his time with us is strictly limited. He has always given us support and ideas. He works to influence the teenagers in a positive way in the village."

I was very interested in finding out whether police officers themselves felt that enough consultation was taken and enough notice taken of what the public thought and wanted.

The response was varied. Comments such as

"I can think of no other public organisation which seeks and receives so much feedback." and

"I am sure that the Force usually bears in mind all genuine comments."

were countered by

"No. The Force only draws information from a very small group of people who are not really representative of the general public." and

"Decision and policy making is made by persons behind closed doors who rarely meet the public and regardless of public opinion the will of a few is thrust upon the masses."

Others argue that the matter of having more officers on the beat has very little to do with a lack of resources but a refusal by those who can change the situation to do so. One senior civilian member of staff has become concerned at the amount of time wasted on training seminars on such subjects as grievance procedure and equal opportunity.

"We seem to have lost our way. People out there are crying out for protection on the streets and all we seem to be involved in is a kind of political posturing and courses. I strongly question what we are doing and what we are achieving and whether people are receiving the kind of policing that they deserve and wish for."

Another employee was even more outspoken:

"The attitude of senior officers who have it in their power to do something about the situation seems to be very negative. They will tell you that those days of bobbies on the beat are gone, but those days could return if they really wanted them to. There is no doubt in my mind that many officers should be on the beat where the public want to see them."

So the question arises in my mind that if returning to beat policing is a possibility why is it not being done. The answer is simply that police officers have been moved into other directions and will continue to be moved at the expense of the basic cornerstone policing which has been at the heart of law and order in this country in the past.

This is aptly illustrated by conversation with two more police officers who have serious misgivings about two new concepts introduced to the Force this year.

These two bones of contention have been the introduction of a Crime Line Help Desk at police headquarters in Norwich and a centralised telephone exchange. Both of these have brought numerous adverse comments about the continue lack of personal face to face contact between the police and the public. Neither have a direct bearing on beat policing but many feel that personnel are being taken off the streets to staff these new areas.

The Crime Line Help Desk deals with more minor crimes (these make up a large proportion in the county). It deals with crimes that the planning departments have decided no longer require a police presence such as minor burglaries, car crime etc. The Help Desk is able to give people reporting crimes advice and instant crime numbers for insurance claims, but it takes away the personal touch as one employee pointed out.

"I have a friend who had a video and television stolen. He phoned the police to report this and was told that details would be taken over the phone as police officers were no longer sent to such matters. The next day he was stopped for speeding in a newly restricted rural area. On that day he saw four patrol cars covering the stretch of road in question. He felt let down. When he needed a police officer following his break-in one was not forthcoming, yet when he inadvertently broke the law there were plenty of police officers around."

I wouldn't want to get into the age old public debate about why people are stopped for speeding when police officers should be "out there catching criminals," but the above comment does show the feelings of the public that resources can be ploughed into one area whilst being taken away from an area the public are not happy with.

Those sentiments were echoed in the village by one business person:

"The format is that we phone in an report the breakage (of windows). No- one visits us unless something has actually gone missing."

Another spoke of the limited time available for personal contact:

"Whilst being helpful, I was always under the opinion that there was only a limited amount of time available and any decision or outcome is time controlled."

A number of officers complained to me about the centralised telephone system which now routes most calls through Police Headquarters who then make the decision about who they should be passed onto. It means that a member of the public phoning their local station will now automatically be transferred to Norwich.

"I have had so many people complain that when they live in one of the villages and in the past have been used to phoning their local policemen they now speak to a switchboard operator in Norwich. It is breaking down the relationship between people living in the country and their local officers," one inspector said.

"I have had more complaints about this than anything else in my 20 years service," said another officer.

The above comments suggest to me that the force is not really considering the wishes of the public when deciding on the style and contents of policing in the county. So it once again poses the question "couldn't more police be put on the beat if Norfolk Constabulary really wanted to" and I believe the answer is yes.

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion I would like to look once again at my original four basic pre-conceptions and discuss whether in light of my research my feelings have changed at all.

My first assumption was that the public is dissatisfied with crime levels.

Whilst it would still be wrong and insulting to suggest that people could ever be satisfied with crime levels, I now feel that the crime levels in Hethersett are as acceptable as it is possible to get. Comments from one parishioner "In a perfect world even one crime is one crime too many," are tempered by the general comment of many people about the majority of crime being petty vandalism - something that has been going on for many many years.

The crime rate in Norfolk has dropped by % over the last five years and as has been stated the crime figures for Hethersett are relatively low. The comments and facts put before me make me realise that the crime-rate in Hethersett is a lot lower than I had anticipated and the feelings are that the introduction of a parish constable scheme in the village will further lower these figures.

My second assumption was that the public in Hethersett is dissatisfied with what they consider to be an inadequate uniformed and visible police presence in the village.

Comments from villagers suggest that they accept that it is no longer possible to have an all-embracing police presence in the village. In addition Inspector Morris says that he cannot justify full-time policing in Hethersett and the Chief Constable has pointed out how changes in working conditions and practices now make it impossible to provide 24-hpur, seven days a week coverage of a village with any fewer than five officers. The days of Dixon of Dock Green and Heartbeat have certainly gone forever.

Nobody I spoke to in the village showed acute concern at the lack of police presence or the level of the crime rate. This surprised me and rather changed my thinking on the subject.

My third assumption was that the public still want more beat patrol officers.

I still believe that many people would like to see a regular presence but accept that this is no longer possible. If the crime-rate in Hethersett took an upward surge I am sure there would be renewed calls for extra policing. The whole situation remains a rather volatile mix of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. The present mix seems to be largely acceptable.

National documentation such as the Cassels Report and Streetwise suggest that beat policing is a good thing. Much of this is theory, however and these very reports do not make suggestions on how a greater presence can be achieved.

My fourth assumption was that the police, with only finite resources, are unable to provide what the public want and expect.

This was the most difficult assumption to unravel. There are really no cut and dried answers. Some members of the Force believe that computerisation and government-led initiatives such as the Charter Mark and Performance Indicators detract from the essence of policing which is crime prevention and detection.

I have already quoted one employee as saying:

"We really are losing our way. People want protection on the Streets,"

This view was echoed in a number of casual conversations, but is countered by those who argue that it is the likes of Charter Marks and Performance Indicators that uphold Norfolk Constabulary's commitment to the public and helps enhance the service.

Norfolk Constabulary is a vastly diverse organisation with many different strands. Policing is not a black and white concept. There are so many nuances and twists and turns in dealing with the public and crime. The demands on the Force today are complex and numerous. My research has led me to believe that whilst an ideal world would see a bobby permanently on the beat in villages such as Hethersett and whilst this is still possible, Norfolk Constabulary no longer wishes to follow this path.

As stated in my research national reports on policing state that beat policing is a desirable part of the law and order process. The reports do not suggest how this can be done and many forces including Norfolk avoid the situation hiding under the umbrella of a lack of funding and resources.

I still believe that more could be done by way of beat policing and I believe that Norfolk Constabulary often pays lip service to the wishes of the community. Sometimes the wishes of the public are not realistic, but sometimes they are reasonable. Whether the Force has got the balance right is probably grounds for more extensive research.

The Force seems to be moving further away from beat policing and I do not think we will ever return to a situation of local officers policing villages regularly. My research has led me to believe that we will see more Specials and Parish Constables or as some people have said "Policing on the cheap."

Following my conversations with individual officers I was certainly of the opinion that some would still be happy to fulfill the role of a village bobby as the following comments show.

"I would love to police a village where I could be part of the community."

"I would swap for that way of life right now."

"It certainly appeals to me. The Heartbeat type of policing is great for villages and I would like that sort of contact with my local bobby."

"Wonderful."

Others were strongly against the idea:

"I would not be happy with the idea. There would not be enough work to do in the average size Norfolk village."

"Being tied to a village for 37 hours a week would quickly lead to boredom.

"This would not be a viable proposition. It would be impossible on present resources and I don't feel I would be fully occupied."

"Soul destroying. There would be little or no camaraderie and little contact with your colleagues."

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