I warmly welcome the Government’s announcement that an additional 20,000 police officers will be recruited in England and Wales over the next three years. The recruitment drive will start as early as September with the launch of a national campaign.
Here in Cheltenham, the increase will come on top of the extra 74 Gloucestershire officers already being funded through this year’s council tax. Gloucestershire Police have been advertising their expansion for some time at community events like the one I attended in Winston Churchill Gardens.
So how should the additional officers be deployed? I think that’s a no-brainer. I have long called for more police to be out of their cars and patrolling the streets – either on foot or on bike. A visible uniformed presence make a huge difference to the public’s feeling of safety and security. I know from my own experience how welcome it is to see PCSO Charafi patrolling the Lower High Street near my office.
Patrols act as a deterrent too. Those who make others’ lives a misery, whether it’s careering around Pittville Park on mopeds, dealing drugs in King George V playing fields, or simply making a racket through the night in Sandford Park, need to feel there is a credible risk of getting caught by a patrolling police officer. And even with Lansdown police station’s manned strength of 39 officers and PCSOs, the fact is beat officers are not as visible as we need them to be.
Funding for additional police officers is possible because of our country’s improving public finances. As a nation we’re still not living within our means – the last time we did that was in 2001 – but borrowing has dropped from around £150 billion a year in 2010 to roughly £25 billion today. That has created headroom for the largest funding increase in the NHS’s history, and now this boost for the police.
But it mustn’t just get lost in the system. Let’s see those new officers out on the beat.