Whenever I ask people what they want the police to do for them, they often say, ‘I want to be safe’. Or, more likely, ‘I want to feel safe’. They sometimes elaborate that: ‘I want to be safe and feel safe in my home, at work, on the streets, in the town centre. I want to be and to feel safe by day and safe by night.’

The message could not be simpler: helping people to be safe and to feel safe is the ultimate aim of good policing.

People speak about being safe and also about feeling safe. The two are not the same.

The difference is this. When people talk about being safe they mean they want to be able to point to something objective. Actual crime and anti-social behaviour is coming down. Crimes are being detected, successful prosecutions are happening and villains are being put away. When that is happening people know they are being kept safe.

Feeling safe, however, can be different – and can present us with real puzzles. There are parts of the city that are objectively safe – there is very little crime or anti-social behaviour – yet people say they do not feel safe.

Conversely, there are other parts of the city where crime and anti-social behaviour is higher, yet people say they feel safe! This is much more difficult to understand and deal with.

One answer to the puzzle – and its only one – is what we mean by local or neighbourhood policing. In those parts of the town where the police are seen more often, where they build relationships with local shopkeepers, the residents’ group, the Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, and so on, that strengthens the sense of safety.

But it is getting harder and harder to put into neighbourhoods dedicated police officers and Police Community Support Officers because budget cuts mean there are fewer officers and PCSOs.

Last year I asked the new Chief Constable to restore neighbourhood policing, which had been considerably eroded in the year before he came. But it is not easy when nationally police officer numbers have fallen by 16% and PCSOs by more than 30%.

One reason for the increase in council tax in South Yorkshire this year is so that we can stabilise numbers and put some dedicated officers back into neighbourhoods. In that way, South Yorkshire residents should both be and feel safe.