PCC Blog 28

Marcus Rashford, the footballer, is not someone any politician would want to contradict or disappoint at just this moment.

So by the time you read this (I am writing on Sunday), I expect the government will have found a way of feeding hungry children during the school half term holiday.

But there is also an important point here for those of us concerned with crime and policing. It is a reminder that one effect of the pandemic is to increase disadvantage in our communities as people are laid off, businesses fold and unemployment rises.

We know that gangs are actively targeting children and young people, seeking to draw them into their criminal activities, particularly moving drugs around – county lines.

Young people in struggling families, where there is little money, are very vulnerable to the promise of friendship and cash in hand that the gangs offer – a type of grooming. Whatever helps to make families more resilient and their children and young people less vulnerable to the gangs, has to be supported, and that includes ensuring that they have a decent meal each day.

This is why driving down crime cannot be a policing matter alone.

Thoughts on the coronavirus

I was talking to my younger son, who lives in the south, about the apparent north-south division with the coronavirus infection. Why was the infection rate so much higher in the north than the south? We ran through all the factors that have been put forward in recent weeks as explanations: denser housing, multi-generation families in the same house, deprivation, large numbers of students … and so on. He pointed out – he began his working life as a computational physicist – that all these were factors in other parts of the country as well. There must be some other variable/s – and perhaps one was the climate. ‘It’s colder in the north,’ he recalled from his childhood here and in the Lake District, and we were told that the virus is more virulent when temperatures drop.

It seemed a better explanation than anything I have heard so far, and if true, means that we are simply ahead of where many other, southern parts of the country will be in three or four weeks time.

Perverse consequences 

A perverse consequence is where an action intended to bring something about has the opposite effect – and this seems inexplicable.

Yet this is where we could be this time next year as far as recorded crime goes and as a result of increasing police officer numbers.

I think the government believes – and certainly the public believes – that more police officers will bring crime down. I believe that as well, which is why we looked to increase police numbers two years ago. We planned an overall increase of 220 officers between now and 2024, and we are well on with those plans. This was before the government announced that it would fund additional officers to replace most, though not all, of those lost during the austerity years – 20,000 nationwide.

But the immediate effect of more officers will be more activity by them  – more investigations, more arrests, more court cases and, hopefully, more convictions.  And all that will mean more crimes will be recorded. Crime will seem to go up, not down.

Those new officers, who are being recruited and trained now, will start to make their mark round about this time next year. Then, for a time at least, crime (that is, recorded crime) will go up. Not quite the headline the politicians, or any of us, were looking for.

So we have our work cut out to explain to the public that crime will go up before it comes down.


 Each year I have to set a budget for the police force and determine how much I should ask council tax payers to contribute towards it – this is for the year beginning in April 2021. To help me do that, I seek the views of the South Yorkshire public on policing – where they think the priorities should be – and how much they are prepared to pay for the service.

In a normal year (if you remember those days) my two engagement officers and I would be out and about meeting many people in town and village centres and in community meetings. But that is more difficult this year. So I am launching an on-line survey to supplement the much reduced direct contact I will be able to have with people to help me form judgements as we approach budget-making time. I would be most grateful if you could take a minute or two to complete it.


Nothing new under the sun…

The north-south divide goes back a long way. This is Orderic Vitalis, a Benedictine monk, writing about how people in the north regarded their king in London after the Norman conquest:

“And so the English groaned aloud for their lost liberty and plotted ceaselessly to find some way of shaking off a yoke that was so intolerable and unaccustomed”.

Oh dear…

My worried granddaughter asked me what the restrictions were for Santa Claus as he entered South Yorkshire and Tier 3 territory. ‘If he doesn’t wear a mask, will your police officers arrest him?’

Perhaps I should find out in good time what they have been briefed.

I hope you are staying safe and well.