Last year we increased overall police officer numbers in South Yorkshire – including the Barnsley District – for the first time since 2010.
Before that, numbers had fallen year on year by over 500 – from about 3,000 to 2,400.
The Chief Constable had little choice about this.
It was all the result of the years of austerity and cuts in government grant.
But in 2019 we used local money – council tax – to start to reverse that downward trend.
As a result, there are more police now than a year ago.
Then, at the General Election, all the political parties committed themselves to restoring the 20,000 police that had been lost nationally.
Having chopped them, the government will, of course, want credit for putting them back!
But at least they accepted that there was a link between falling police numbers and rising crime, especially house burglaries and crimes associated with gangs and drugs.
The sudden rise in knife crime two years ago nationally – though not in Barnsley – was probably the decisive factor that brought everyone to their senses.
I welcome this, though we had already begun to recruit anyway.Two things are now starting to happen as a result.
First, more police officer’s means that more places will have to be found for them to be based.
In some parts of the county this could mean we look again at existing police buildings that may have been closed.
To take one example in the Barnsley District, we are looking again at the police station in Hoyland for a neighbourhood team to use by day.
At the moment it is used for other purposes by civilian staff.
More police will also mean more officers for neighbourhood teams.
Neighbourhood teams were another casualty of the cuts. Police officers were taken out. PCSOs were often all that remained. Now officers are being put back – and they, crucially, have powers of arrest.
So in Hoyland there will be a full neighbourhood team in the station when that is re-opened, hopefully, in a few months’ time. At present the team operates from Goldthorpe police station.
I am sure this will be welcomed by everyone, not least the police.
It means that this new team will be nearer the people and community they serve – something the local councillors have been pressing for.
So, over the next few years, be prepared to see more police.
And yes, they will look younger. Much younger.