One of the lessons that the police learnt when neighbourhood teams were re-introduced was the importance of talking (and listening) to the public.
SYP Alerts has been one way they have done this. It gives an opportunity for the police to explain not just what they are doing but why they are doing it, and so take the public with them.
Government has to some extent done the same as it has sought to explain lock-down and why it is necessary. In this way, if what they say makes sense, the police can police by consent and the government can govern by consent – both essential in a democracy.
This talking and listening will be put to the test as decisions have to be made about when to emerge from the lock-down. That conversation has to be what some call ‘grown-up’. And here the government has created a problem for itself. It has insisted that its decisions are not political but ‘based on the science’. I can see why they use this language. ‘Based on the science’ makes the decision seem as if it is anchored on secure foundations and there could only be one way forward.
But the ‘science’ that is being relied on is more akin to economics than physics; and we all know that the forecasts of economists can differ and so the policy options they might advocate will differ.
The science of pandemics is (like economics) all about modelling, and that depends on the data you have and the assumptions you make. We have little data around corona virus because we have not been testing – so we don’t know how many in the population have had it or have got it – and we have to make assumptions about the rate of spread, which may or may not be true.
Deciding when and how to come out of lock-down, therefore, can’t be ‘based on the science’ in the sense that there can only be one answer. Scientists will have different views and the final decision will have to be political.
All the more reason, therefore, that the government share their thinking with us, like grown-ups. As I was told when I did my O Level GCE mathematics, always show your workings.
Until this year the word ‘corona’ meant only one thing to me. It conjured up happy memories of a childhood spent just a short distance from a Corona soft drinks bottling plant in Leicester.
People we knew who worked there would bring us – the children – the occasional bottle. My favourite was Dandelion and Burdock, an acquired taste. Now corona has no happy associations at all.
(Incidentally, and co-incidentally, St Corona is the patron saint guarding against epidemics. She is commemorated on 4 May – which may be around the peak of the pandemic in this country.)
Covid-19, Crime and the Criminal Justice System
Last week I took part in a conference call with other PCCs and the policing minister during which a senior Home Office analyst gave us a summary of what had happened to police recorded crime nationally during the first four weeks of the lock-down.
Unsurprisingly, crime has fallen dramatically, especially acquisitive crimes such as house burglaries, and this has been reflected in South Yorkshire too.
More surprisingly, the Home Office have no evidence of domestic abuse rising by much either, though some PCCs tend to think that this may not be revealed until the lock-down is over. All the more reason to welcome SYP’s developing a new way for victims of abuse being able to contact them surreptitiously on line through mobile phone, tablet or lap top.
But Covid-19 has had a considerable impact of the wider criminal justice system. For instance, all jury trials have stopped for now, and some remand hearings are now starting to take place remotely from Shepcote Lane custody suite. Defence lawyers are able to telephone their clients directly in the custody suite. Overall, there has been a significant reduction in the number of trials taking place and work is ongoing to ensure these are back on track as soon as possible.
There is also a scheme to release some prisoners early to help reduce the numbers in prison and stop multiple occupation of cells. For example, these are offenders who are within a couple of months of completing the custody part of their sentence, whose crimes are relatively low level and who have no history of domestic abuse or violence. They will be GPS tagged. So far those identified in South Yorkshire have been very few.
Attacks on Mobile Phone Masts
While everyone else in the crime and policing world is trying to base what they do on science and evidence, there are one or two people on social media who ignore the science altogether.
They include those who think Covid-19 is spread via signals from mobile phone masts. There have been 53 attacks on masts, mainly in the North West and North East. One person has now been arrested in the West Midlands. Fear of the virus seems to affect some people as much as the disease itself.
I hope you are staying safe and well.
My office is now closed and we are all working from home. But you can still contact us:
General queries and correspondence:
Telephone: 0114 2964150
Fiona Topliss, Communications and Engagement Manager:
Telephone: 07468 472975