360 new officers for West Mercia might not mean more visibility

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Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 6:41pm

By Alex Moore - Local Democracy Reporter

West Mercia Police officer numbers will soon be back to their 2009 peak, with the force expected to receive “about 360” from the Prime Minister’s promised intake of 20,000.

But a senior officer has warned this won’t necessarily mean the public see more police on the streets.

Safer Neighbourhood Team Inspector Gary Wade said the “Dixon of Dock Green era” image of beat policing is outdated, and a lot of officer time is now spent protecting vulnerable and at-risk people – work has to be done in private.

He was speaking at a public meeting arranged by Councillor Tim Nelson, who said he hadn’t seen a single officer while out canvassing for this year’s local elections.

“The subject of policing came up on the doorstep in April and May a lot,” he said.

Soon after appointment as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson pledged to recruit 20,000 new police officers.

West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said this would mean “about 360” for his force area, which incorporates Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Worcestershire, taking officer numbers back to around 2,500.

Mr Campion said: “I accept, and I think the Prime Minister has clearly said, the public want to see visible policing in their community.”

But Insp Wade said: “We aren’t in a Dixon of Dock Green era.

“What we’re talking about now is vulnerability. When I joined, we certainly didn’t have risk management plans, where we visited victims of domestic violence, or people who were at risk of being taken out of the country for forced marriage.

“That is demand-driven, but you don’t typically know about it, and rightly.

“There is an awful lot that goes on that wouldn’t have gone on 20 years ago, but it is vital in making sure the vulnerable don’t live in fear.

“If we can get on the streets to walk up and down, then it’s good. It’s a fine balancing act. But there is a lot of work out there that you don’t see.”

Mr Campion told the meeting, held at the Parish Rooms in Newport, that it was his job to hold Chief Constable Anthony Bangham to account, and he promised to ensure the best use was made of the new intake.

“I would want to know what we get for that,” Mr Campion said.

“I would want some crime types to go down, and to see other effects.”

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