Friday, 5 June 2009

Point Number Eight

Back in January I wrote this post about the appointment of our new boss. In the list of things I very much doubt we'd get (and thus far we haven't) was number eight's "specific targeting and extreme harassment of each divisions top 50 criminals until they are locked away, move out of London, or kill themselves." Now, the last bit may seem harsh to some people, but as I and all of my colleagues know how much pain and misery someone would have to have caused over a number of years to get into the top set of criminals for a given area, few of us would shed a tear if they were to turn up swollen and bloated after a couple of days at the bottom of the Thames.

When I was a probationer in my old force we had a new divisional commander who moved to us from a neighbouring force, and at one of his meet and greet sessions he outlined his strategies for winding a few of the local criminal necks in. Aside from more 'encouragement' for the local CPS prosecutors to actually work at putting some of them to court for the right offences (and not busting the offence down to get an easy guilty plea) he wanted us to harass our top twenty or so criminals. By harass he meant executing arrest warrants at the most inconvenient times possible like Christmas or their birthday, searching them when and where possible - but especially in public - if there was even the slightest grounds, and getting in touch with all known members of their family to trace them if they were named as suspects in a crime allegation.

The most encouraging bit was that in ordering us to assertively target people he knew that we'd be subject to complaints from the suspects as well as family members, and possibly members of the public. "That's my problem, not yours" he said "and besides, if they are complaining, then it's working"

This type of Policing is extremely labour intensive, it's not just a case of putting one or two officers on the suspect, you need dozens to get proper 24 hour cover for just one person. Overt surveillance is not as difficult as covert as you need many more, but you still need resources to put into it and you have to sustain pressure for some time before you actually see any effect, but as Essex Police have shown the time and effort IS worth it. By targeting known burglars and basically making their lives a misery for a change, they have drastically reduced the number of residential burglaries compared to the year before.

As a preventative measure - in lieu of burglars actually getting any meaningful prison sentences - harassing them works. They're not going to be able or willing to go out in the dead of night and screw someone's house or garage over if they know that outside their own house are a couple of Police officers ready to follow them. Their thieving burglar mates aren't going to want to hang around them, and other people will know that they are a criminal if they constantly see them walking down the street with a couple of Police officers a couple of steps behind.

There are inevitably going to be ECHR issues and some could (and probably will) argue that we are breaching their right to privacy, free assembly, family life etc but to be honest I don't care about that. My personal belief is that if you breach someone else's human rights by committing crime against them, then your protection under the human rights act should be forfeit.

There is also the cost factor involved and eventually justifying that cost. If we harass our most prolific criminals enough then they will either stop committing crime or move out of the area. This drop in crime is great for you and me, but not so great for those holding the purse strings. How can you justify spending a fortune on a crime reduction tactic when there is no crime to speak of? That paradox of proactive policing is one that the government have failed to grasp for so long, and it's the main reason for the removal of beat officers - a Police officer walking around is going to reduce both crime and the fear of crime but how do you measure prevention?

Annoyingly we can't say "well Billy burglar used to commit 1 burglary a day, so over the last year we've prevented 365 burglaries" because someone will just say "prove it" and we can't.

The only way is to look at what happened in the previous year, but if you are that successful and continue to reduce crime there comes a point where there is no crime year on year and someone is going to suggest that you don't need the money to continue policing that way any more. Harassing criminals, getting in their faces, ruining their weekends or parties and generally making their lives a misery is a proven method of reducing crime, not only from them but from other people who see what will happen to them if they get on the list. How about a bit of consequence to their actions for once?


PS, I will be revisiting the other points on that list but as Essex have proven the point so well I thought it only right to acknowledge it!


Kasper Simonsen said...

I am sorry to say that I think you express a very anti-democratic and anti-human-right attitude. The point of universal human rights is that they are exactly that, universal. Otherwise, there is no point in having human rights, and then we could just have police forces nicking people just because they feel like it, drop the fair trials, etc etc.

If one isn't prepared to extend universal rights to everybody without a single exception, there is no point, and we would be better off, imho, to just accept that and say out loud that we don't care about liberties. Then people can make a choice and move to a different country where the respect for human beings is greater.

Otherwise, I enjoy reading your blog. I am not a UK citizen, I live in Denmark, but it is very interesting none the less, although the mentioned attitude to human rights worry me if that is the general opinion in the British police forces.

Metcountymounty said...

Kasper, thanks for the comment. I completely agree that human rights should indeed be universal for all, the problem that we have faced in the UK since the introduction of the European convention of human rights act is that the rights of the criminals seem to take priority over everyone else, especially their victims. Surely the right to private life, right to enjoy possessions and the right of free assembly should apply to everyone without fear of being attacked by criminals who will then use that very same piece of legislation to protect themselves when they have chosen to breach the rights of other people?

Personally I think the situation has swung way too far in the wrong direction and where the act was brought in to protect individual freedoms and remove the threat of indiscriminate persecution, the only people who have benefited are those who commit crime and make everyone else's lives a misery.

TheBinarySurfer said...

Back after a few weeks chaos moving home MCM...

You make a good point there MCM - and there's not many Guv's that would have the balls to do that i suspect!

I fully agree - we now live in a society where the guilty use the ECHR as a shield - which it was clearly not intended as. It was meant to be a civilising influence on the CJS, and not the equivalent of a hamstringing.

Personally, if i knew a Guv that would take the action you describe i'd be writing glowing letters to his CC as to be quite policing should be about PREVENTING crime proactively, not detecting it after the fact! (The focus on detections (or whatever they call them now) just painfully illustrates that the government has given up trying to prevent or reduce crime in any way) and is commited to a "stats war").

Anonymous said...

Gadget for PM

MCM for HS

Anonymous said...

Good post MCM

You seem to be suggesting a return to old fashioned coppering where we were expected to get in the faces of crooks, where all police walked for years before getting anywhere near a car and knew their area like the back of their hand, where bosses told scroats to piss off when they tried to make malicious complaints, where coppers were trusted to use their discretion….

Anonymous said...

To kasper,
victims of crime and their families and the vast majority of the public don't give 2 shits about the human rights of a criminal. The only people who do dare are bleeding heart liberals like yourself and the criminals themselves.
Criminals are scum, they should forfeit all their rights if it means the innocent amongst us can sleep soundly at night knowing we aren't going to get our head smashed in by a burglar.
If it means living in a police state, then so be it. I've done nothing wrong, why should police officers being able to follow criminals around all day bother me? It doesn't.

Blue Eyes said...

MCM for Commish!

Anonymous said...

Annoyingly we can't say "well Billy burglar used to commit 1 burglary a day, so over the last year we've prevented 365 burglaries" because someone will just say "prove it" and we can't.

I would think that the techniques used to study epidemics and pubic health measures should work. You might want to have a chat with an epidemiologist and see what you can discover…

Metcountymounty said...

anon 0216 - we're talking about a government and left wing intelligentsia that refuses to accept the fact that a burglar or rapist in a prison cell can't burgle or rape any more. No amount of theory, however credible or proven in science will change their mind - especially when it comes to signing a cheque.

Hibbo said...

You may be surprised to hear that I fully support your plan, if indeed known "real" criminals were targeted, and it wasn't just an excuse to annoy random decent people until they politely enquired what they had done wrong; at which point you can stick them for one of your long long list of made up offences, issue the PND and proudly chalk up a hard-fought detection before heading back to the lodge for tea and medals. Job well done!

If I am perhaps being a touch too cynical, and assuming that there are coppers out there who would actually be arsed to do this, then I think it's a great idea. Even to a low-life "MOP" like me it is incredibly annoying that the police should even have to consider tactics like this; if someone has committed so much crime that the police think this is necessary, they should be behind bars. As you've said, they can't burgle me from a prison cell.

I read somewhere (I think it was actually a police/government publication) some ridiculous figures, that something like 50% of all crime is committed by just 10,000 people (and the next 45% by 100,000). If this is the case, here's a radical plan, never been attempted before:
Government: Build 10,000 extra prison places.
CJS: Send repeat offenders down, longer each time, no 46th or 47th last chances.
Police: Get off your arses, out of the station, put your speed cameras down and ARREST SOME PEOPLE WHO ARE MAKING LIFE A FUCKING MISERY FOR 99% OF THE POPULATION.

If this is too complicated, for a £100,000 consultancy fee I could produce a full report.

Keep up the good work MCM

Metcountymounty said...

Hibbo - how do you think they get to the 46th or 47th chance mate? it's got sod all to do with speed cameras, it's because WE ARE out there nicking them, they don't get sent to court for criminal offences like assault, theft or burglary because the bus conductor or postman thinks they're a bit dodgy it's because police officers arrest them, put the evidence together and send them to court! over and over and over again the same fucking people, day in day out are getting arrested for the same things. I saw a briefing slide the other week for a guy recently released from prison who is so prolific and dangerous the BIU's (borough intelligence units) were literally begging for any information or sightings to put this guy back in prison as soon as possible. What made him so dangerous? 1300 previous convictions for burglary alone, I dread to think what the rest of his precons look like.

How can it be even possible to get that many convictions? Even if he'd coughed to over a thousand of them in order to get leniency in sentencing, that's still over 300 burglaries, each alone being able to attract ten years in prison. The whole criminal justice system is fucked and if we can't put them in prison for the rest of their natural lives then the only way we can even start to get a grip on them is to follow and harass them every second of every day, even if that means getting in theirs or their families faces.

Hibbo said...

Whoa there big fella! I'm on your side here MCM.

I agree, and often point out that when we hear that m'learned friends yet again release someone with dozens of previous convictions, that the police have done their job correctly dozens of times. I agree, the police should not have to do this doezens of times for the same person (and I'd imagine for pretty much the same crimes each time).

What I am weary of however, is like so many police/justice intuitives, whilst they may have originally been thought up with good intentions, more often than not they end up being used for nothing more than clocking up detections and raising revenue. If the brass said "OK MCM, that's a great idea! Guys, get out there and hound the known bad 'uns!" How many plods would actually bother with Billy burglar, when they know full well that they can simply antagonise a detection out of the first person they meet (some of the police I've met could get a breach of the peace out of Ghandi - it's quite a skill really) - then proudly boast to the boss how they followed his orders and nicked loads of people. All the while Billy burglar gets on with his business and yet more people turn to see the police as the enemy.

Whilst I like what you say in principle, I don't trust the police one bit to work it like you say. Also, it is a bit too close to the police dream of cameras/DNA/ID cards/tracking devices etc etc NOTHING TO HIDE NOTHING TO FEAR situation for me.

If the police in my area made even the slightest effort to even inconvenience the local scrotes, never mind 'bother' or 'hound' them, we would all be delighted.

Ain't gonna happen, for the reasons I alluded to earlier.

Bloody hell, this was a long post, sorry.

PS. Good to have you back blogging again though MCM.

Metcountymounty said...

hibbo, if it's directed action with named suspects then why would we be going after anyone else? you find the guy, get resources on them and then stick with them.

Personally I don't know anyone who would rather chose hassling jo public over getting a burglar, even if actually getting a burglar pisses off jo public at 2 in the morning because of walking through their gardens or keeping the helicopter overhead while they are asleep. Both of which I've seen complaints about recently, and yes we did catch them red handed, and as usual no one knows or cares because it's not news unless we kill someone or make a mistake.

I know you're not the biggest fan of the Police by a long shot, but I really think you could do with going out with a response team for a couple of night duties to actually get a real look at what we do - and what we have to deal with - I can guarantee you won't see a speed camera anywhere near them!

Hibbo said...

I know you're not the biggest fan of the Police by a long shot, but I really think you could do with going out with a response team for a couple of night duties to actually get a real look at what we do - and what we have to deal with

Does that kind of thing still happen? I can't see them just taking some random pleb along for the ride, then there's elf'n'safety... If such an opportunity arose I would certainly take it, I'm sure it would be very interesting. I wouldn't join in with the tramp-kicking sessions though, and would have to make sure my car was immaculate (with a full washer bottle)...

Sierra Charlie said...

Or better still, do a few days training and wear the uniform yourself!

Metcountymounty said...

Hibbo, we do it all the time. They are usually people looking to join the Police (as a police officer, PCSO, or control room staff) or police officers looking to transfer but I've had students on criminology and law degree courses, MP's and MPA members and I know people from community meetings go out every now and then. It shouldn't be hard to do at all, just go to your local nick and ask them but probably a good idea to not start slagging them off straight away....

I've even seen a magistrate out for a weekend of nights for a bit of an eye opener, personally I think everyone involved in the criminal justice system should have to go out every few months - including defence solicitors - just to see what it's actually like before the dilution of statements and chain of evidence. Though that might be a bit too real for them, having to deal with life outside of the office or court room.

As far as health and safety goes, they'll more than likely stick you with the area car crew so you'll get to see a few different jobs, you'll have to wear a stabbie and probably an observer jacket in case it kicks off and someone mistakes you for a PC in plain clothes. If things go properly pear shaped they might ask you to stay in the car - not so you don't see them cunningly stamping on someones head off camera, but so they don't get stuck on or sued if you get caught in the middle.

It's up to you mate, I just wonder if you're willing to risk having to ditch the speed camera using MOP hating old Bill cliche once you get a glimpse from our side of the fence?

Hibbo said...

Thanks for the info MCM, I am being serious, I would definitely do something like that, I am very surprised that it is still allowed. I also am fully with you that members of the judiciary should have to spend some time with with the filth to see what reality is really like.

But how would I go about it? I am not a student of law, an MP or jounro (are journos welcome?) and I certainly do not want to join the police; so I can't really walk in and say "Good evening officer, I have an extremely low opinion of the police and would like to spend some time on patrol with you as some police bloggers tell me I've got it wrong".

Maybe I could come down to that London and you could tee it up!

Whilst I might be somewhat opinionated and feel very strongly about certain things, I am absolutely not stubborn or ignorant in the face of reality, so in the unlikely event that I saw the police to be helpful, hard-working, honest and doing what they could for law-abiding people(!) I would have no problem with changing my opinion.

Blue Eyes said...

in the unlikely event that I saw the police to be helpful, hard-working, honest and doing what they could for law-abiding people

So you haven't met any police officers before?

Blue Eyes said...

ps can I come too?

Hibbo said...

oh contraire, Blue Eyes. I have indeed met many police officers, not loads mind, but quite a few. My opinions have been formed through first hand experience of the police.

PS. You are more than welcome to come along on Hibbo & MCM's big night out...!

thespecialone said...

Hibbo, havent I read somewhere that you are ex-RAF? Or are you still serving? Well I am an ex-matelot and now as a civvy I am a 'Special' as well as doing my day job. For those that dont know, you cannot be a 'Special' while in the armed forces. Being a 'Special' has really opened my eyes.
I didnt have much to do with the police (other than Naval Provost when I was oh so young!) but of course could read the press and watch TV. Now in these modern days, we also have blogs like this. Because TV/Dead Tree Press need to fill their screen/pages with 24 hour news, they need to drag things out for days and days when years ago, unless it was really big, it was next day's chip paper. You know as well as I do that the media love a cracking headline to grab the attention. Of course often you get down to the weeds and actually the headline is partially half true.
For instance headline may read 'Police fail to catch killer'. Read on and you may find that actually the killer carried out a burglary 5 years ago and didnt go inside. I have not used a real incident but I am sure they are out there somewhere.
I have been on patrol with a regular, seen people just break the speed limit and we have pulled them over and reminded them of the limit and given a warning. Or someone not wearing a seatbelt but not taking serious action. It, of course, depends on the circumstances. A car doing 25mph near a school at 3pm would be serious. But a car doing 35mph at 2am may not be so.

My point is, and I am not defending the police in every action taken, is that you seem to not realise what goes on day in, day out. Please dont be blinkered by media reporting. Overall the police do a good job but as we know their hands are tied with targets etc etc.

Hibbo said...

That's correct Spesh, I'm an ex-liney, now plying my trade in the real world.

I hear what you're saying, and thanks for taking the time to write it. I do have both sympathy and respect for the handful of decent coppers that are out there. But the police as a whole I just can't bring myself to 'like' them. I have seen nothing to change that. The police's actions (and more importantly inaction) of recent years and insistence on prioritising nonsense "crimes" whilst actively seeking to criminalise as many decent people as possible to gain detections has driven such a wedge between the public and the police. As a spesh you are probably better placed to see it as you work with and associate with normal non-police people. I really do think that if some plods spoke to non-police they would find that attitudes and opions like mine are certainly not uncommon.

It was the police who engineered this situation so they can neatly complete the self-serving detection wheel, and yet they wonder why nobody likes them?

Maybe I should become a spesh.....

thespecialone said...


I completely agree with you that some officers are complete dickheads and you wouldnt piss on them if on fire (you probably would if that really did happen but you get my point). That is the same in any job. I can honestly say I served with some matelots that I felt the same about and I am sure you can think of some too.

Dont forget, that unlike the armed forces, who although coming under the umbrella of the MOD, they do not get diktats down to the minutae detail like the police do from the Home Office. Therefore the police virtually have to do what HO says (ie you must make xx arrests per month or everyone doing 32mph is to be done etc).
Again, I know some senior officers in the navy etc are only doing some actions to further their careers. But generally most do care about their troops and the bigger picture. Some senior police officers are truly only in it for themselves and will suck up to anyone who can further them or come up with 'evidence' to advance themselves. No matter how ridiculous the scheme. As has been stated on this and other blogs, if only senior police officers, and those more junior who have been stuck in offices for years would actually get out and do some real policing. It wont happen partly because they are doing as HO tells them and partly because they know they couldnt handle it.

Dont pick on the frontline officers who in general do the best they can with limited resources. Think of the bigger picture. As an ex-serviceman you should know that you do as ordered. For the police the orders start at the HO. For the armed forces it starts with serving officers. No HO shinyass has any idea about policing. Because they in turn are accountable to the Home Secretary, who is currently accountable to the PM.

Did that make sense?

thespecialone said...

Sorry for repetitive posting.

Hibbo, also meant to say that when it boils down to it, the officers on the frontline probably want a similar sort of thing to happen!

MidSouthJP said...

I'm a Magistrate and I'd love to spend a couple of shifts with the local police but I've asked and I'm not allowed to. Something to do with separation of duties, not aligning Bench with Police, not being seen to be biased or some other bloody ridiculous rule.

blueknight said...

Mid South JP.
It was the same where I was. JPs were keen to come out with us but the 'Clerk' would not let them.
One lady JP went to the nightclubs area at kickout time which told her all she needed to know....

Panzerknacker said...

You're acting the judge here, it's a hack that temporarily works until the number of serious criminals exceeds your manpower (and that is not far off), and you're introducing a line of thought and a technique into the police arsenal that in the wrong minds who have a bad attitude can easily lead to Gestapo-style policing.

True, our judges no longer judge, but it's better to fix the broken judges than to turn the cops into 24/7 nannying rehab units.

That all said: it's a very funny story, and I have zilch sympathy with the crims here. It's still wrong because it bends our basic framework even more out of shape than it already is ;-(

the man who fell back to bed said...

kasper, I can only assume with an attitude like that you dont live on a sink estate and have never been the victim of burglary by some scumbag who cant be bothered going and working for a living.

as MCM says, the criminals are using the ECHR as a shield - if you are so hellbent on making sure the police obey the conventions of it, can you at least have the courage of you convictions and say that the criminal should also respect those of their victims?