Headlines: February 23rd, 2006

All police forces have now set up command units to champion and implement neighbourhood policing across the country. The make up of neighbourhoods will vary, but in general they will cover about two councils wards. Each neighbourhood will have a dedicated neighbourhood policing team and the aim is for every resident to know the name of their local officer, see them on the street and be able to contact them. About half the country will have teams in place by the end of 2007 and the remainder by 2008.This approach to community policing has been trialled in a number of locations and the pilots sought to involve local communities in identifying and tackling priority crime and disorder. The evaluation shows that the programme has a positive impact on crime, perceptions of crime and anti-social behaviour. In addition, feelings of safety and confidence in the police have improved. It is claimed that informal mechanisms supporting a neighbourhood team play a greater role than formal mechanisms based on traditional, reactive, enforcement-based policing.

A key benefit of neighbourhood policing is that it uses local knowledge and intelligence from local people to target crime hotspots and the disorder issues causing most concern to local communities. Home Office research shows that by working hand in hand with local communities the police become an integral part of the community, rather than merely an organisation providing a service. Greater community participation in policing is also likely to have benefits for both police-community relations as well as for actual levels of crime and disorder.

Community policing has the full support of the Association of Chief Police Officers, but it does present a challenge to the police service. There are concerns that the service is still some way from accepting certain aspects of the ‘community engagement philosophy’. Consequently mainstreaming this style of policing may be delayed while the culture change progresses.