When I was at school I was frequently in trouble. It was all mischief, stupid nonsense that seemed amusing at the time, but it certainly wasn’t for my mum! It nearly cost me.
I was a bit lost, but I was the problem. It was probably boredom more than anything else: I didn’t really see the point of education until I was 14 or so (I had largely ‘bucked up my ideas’ by then) and even then, did not really appreciate how important this was until I moved to London to take on professional jobs after doing my degrees (I had learnt to put the effort in, and had done well qualification wise, but I had no real idea about the importance of the brand, e.g. ‘Golden Triangle’ universities, in gaining access to certain career paths).
Anyway, your personal experience sounds similar to my own in some ways. Accordingly, I have spent a while thinking about it. Here goes…
For me, it is not the increasing of police presence that intensifies the issue per se, but the style of policing.
I recently read The Abolition of Liberty by Peter Hitchens (2004). Chapter 3 is entitled ‘Bobbies on the beat’. As soon as I had read this chapter I thought back to the topic that you posted on here. Hitchens outlines a number of problems with modern policing that certainly resonate with me:
(1) one rarely sees police officers ‘walking the beat’ any more: instead, one is more likely to see them pass by in a squad car or overhead, in a police helicopter. When the police do attend an incident, there is a strong chance that they will have been dispatched from a unit in a neighbouring area. What does this all mean? Less mutual understanding; the fostering of an ‘us and them’ mentality instead of a sense of being on the ‘same side’ because the police officers reside in, or are very familiar with, the community in which they serve; and an increased likelihood of force being used on either side because of the lack of familiarity. Police uniforms have also changed and appear more militaristic, creating an additional sense of distance.
(2) many local police stations have been closed in favour of regional ‘super stations’: The Week recently reported that this trend has continued apace since Hitchens wrote his book in 2004: https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/uk-news/952114/why-the-uk-closed-half-of-its-police-stations-in-the-past-decade. We have recently witnessed this ourselves in Eastleigh, with the closure of our dedicated police station in early 2019. It is often claimed that such closures are justified because of the lack of use of counter services. However, a local police station offers much more than that. It offers reassurance to the local community, placing policing at the heart of it. It offers the possibility of a swift response to an issue, rather than waiting a significant amount of time for assistance to arrive from a ‘super-station’ in distant area. Furthermore, the intelligence that is gather offers the possibility of the prevention of issues, obviating the need for a response at all.
(3) the police that are present are burdened by the trappings of an ever expanding bureaucracy: the much reported ‘form filling’ disincentivises the police from dealing with perceived ‘minor’ matters (much anti-social behaviour is likely to fall within this, although it certainly won’t feel minor to residents who regularly witness it). The ‘corporate’ style, the increasing tendency to moralise (which often just leads to ridicule), and ‘professionalisation’, with an increasing preference for degree holders (Prospects, March 2021: Joining the police | Prospects.ac.uk) risks the development of an ‘elite’ force that is even more removed from the community that it serves (for it should serve the community and not the state). For me, common sense and pragmatism are surely the most important qualities to look for in a prospective police officer. These qualities help to increase understanding, vital to address street level issues before they escalate to ruin lives.
In essence, I think the root of the problem here are, as Hitchens says, the reforms introduced by Roy Jenkins when he occupied the Home Office in the 1960s, spurring the growth of ‘big state’, ‘super force’ policing in preference to localism. I say that we need to re-discover local policing which is more flexible to the needs of specific areas. This is why I am advocating for a new purpose built police station for Eastleigh: it would be a step in the right direction.
My approach would be threefold:
(i) seek membership of a police and crime panel: these serve to scrutinise the plans of the Police and Crime Commissioner (who would has primary responsibility for policing in Hampshire): Police and crime panels | Local Government Association. I would then strongly advocate for more localism, per my arguments above;
(ii) seek improvements to dedicated public spaces that are designed for young people: example – have you by any chance seen the football court behind Blenheim Road? I often see young people having a kick around there late afternoons after school. However, it is now very dated. At the very least it could do with modernisation (e.g. remove the concrete, put in a soft surface like those on the playground that are more pleasant to play on). However, I think it would be better to move this away from an area with back lanes (is psychological, it says ‘you are out of sight here’ but could also disturb residents) to an open space, surrounded by greenery; and
(iii) work with local educational institutions to create a ‘love Eastleigh’ programme: much has been said of the Duke of Edinburg programme recently and why it is so effective: it gives young people a sense of purpose and belonging, not to mention adventure. Could we do something similar at a local level? For example, could young people help create their own space as set out in (ii)? This would not only confer new skills, but would also create a sense of achievement and pride. If you love your town, your county, and your country you are more likely to respect them. This is why I am so against the self-loathing that prominently features in our public narrative at the moment: it is really bad for the soul.
I hope this gives you a bit of an insight into my thinking. Politically, I am somewhat of a lone ranger in these elections (the only Reform UK candidate in Eastleigh), but if I gain a seat at the table there is a chance that a couple of these ideas would get adopted.
Reform UK candidate for Eastleigh North (Hampshire County Council) and Eastleigh Central (Eastleigh Borough Council).