More bobbies on the beat is seen by many communities as the way to reduce crime and the fear of crime. A three-year experiment in a North Yorkshire village to test the theory was abandoned early because it did not work. Under an arrangement with North Yorkshire Police in 2000, the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust agreed to pay 25,000 pounds a year for an additional 24 hours of police time per week in a relatively low-crime neighbourhood. The project was intended to increase the residents’ sense of security through a visible police presence.Hopes of employing a single community police officer who could get to know residents were disappointed. Three different officers held the post in the two years before the contract was terminated almost a year early. The officers found difficulty in fulfilling their community policing duties because emergencies and more pressing crime incidents elsewhere tended to draw them away. Sick leave, holidays and training further reduced the time spent in the village.
The project created high expectations among residents about the level of policing and its impact on crime. There was constant tension between what residents expected from police and what the extra 24 hours a week could realistically achieve. Residents’ concerns were raised about security and safety and they bought alarms and other security devices.
Recorded crimes fell by 5 per cent in the first year of the project, but then almost doubled in the second year.
Professor Adam Crawford, co-author of the research report by the University of Leeds, said: One of the key lessons to be learned from this well-intentioned attempt to make residents feel more secure is that trying to tackle local order problems through policing and security alone can have the opposite effect. The issues that give rise to public demands for more police or more security hardware need more careful scrutiny and discussion in advance.