It was fantastic to see Gloucestershire Police officers mixing with the community at Cheltenham Together’s World Fun Day in Winston Churchill Gardens at the weekend.
I’ve got enormous respect for our local police officers. I know from doing a night shift with a 999 response team what a tough job they do. They have to show different qualities in different situations – switching from being robust and courageous when tackling volatile drunks, to being sensitive and caring with a person in mental health crisis. Good judgement is vital. The officers I saw had that in spades.
And so it’s good news that Gloucestershire Police are on a recruitment drive, seeking another 100+ officers.
How those additional resources are allocated is an operational matter for police, not MPs. But I hope police chiefs will want to put as many new officers on the beat as possible. It’s absolutely crucial to detecting and, crucially, deterring the kind of crime and anti-social behaviour that blights residents’ lives.
While the official figures show that reported crimes in Cheltenham in June 2018 (239) were lower than a year ago (275) and lower too than in 2015, it feels like our parks have been hit in this summer’s heat.
Take Sandford Park for example. Despite the welcome Project Solace collaboration between the Borough Council and police, residents continue to face daily drunken and threatening behaviour, as well as open drug-taking. In Pittville Park too it seems the moped thieves are back, thrashing stolen bikes up the hill to the Pump Room.
Patrolling officers would make a difference. If the risk of bumping into the law went up, criminals might well think twice. And if more patrols were on cycles, as in London, that chance would increase. As a cyclist myself, I know that you can be in Coronation Square in Hesters Way at 4pm and in Pittville Park by 4:20. Fifteen minutes later you can easily be in Sandford Park. Just two officers in Cheltenham on bikes could cover a huge amount of ground, being visible and deterring crime.
I have great respect for our local officers. It’s about time local offenders did too.