What Future for Our Police?; THE WEST MIDLANDS CHIEF REVEALS HIS VISION FOR LAW AND ORDER IN THE 21ST CENTURY. While the Idea of Robocops Patrolling the Region's Streets in the New Millennium May Be a Flight of Fancy, West Midlands Chief Constable Edward Crew Believes Law and Order Is Set to Undergo Radical Change
McGLOWN, Martin, Birmingham Evening Mail (England)
EDWARD Crew doesn't possess a crystal ball. If he did, his task of leading Britain's second biggest police force in this new Millennium would be a lot easier.
As it is, he has to make predictions based on current trends, projected forecasts and gut hunches.
And make no mistake - the stakes are high. Crime and disorder is the number one concern among a public who are increasingly bombarded with newspaper and TV coverage of murders, shootings and violence.
Yet at the same time, funding for policing has been repeatedly slashed in real terms over a protracted period.
Relaxed trade and tourism barriers mean that guns and drugs are in more widespread circulation.
To make matters worse, a demographic time bomb is about to explode as a result of a baby boom in the mid-80s. Forecasters say the population will be made up of far more young men over the next five or six years. Statistics show that the vast majority of crime is committed by males under the age of 21.
So where do the answers lie? Well, according to Chief Constable Crew, constabularies will increasingly have to adopt a multi-agency approach if they are to be effective.
"The police and other authorities are already working closely together and will continue to do so. So much of what we do affects each other," he says.
"For example, if children are not properly educated they will get into bother and eventually fall into crime. I believe truancy patrols will become very common in the next decade.
"Local authorities have enormous power over people's lives. One of the most difficult areas for us is poverty-stricken estates where large groups of young men congregate.
"In the future I think we will see councils collaborating with us to design estates where this happens less frequently and where community spirit is fostered.
"Designing out crime is a big issue. For example, previously if a car park was seen as a crime hot-spot, the police would simply go and survey the car park and make arrests.
"But we are beginning to look at improving lighting, CCTV and so on. This all requires partnership."
Mr Crew, who has now been at the helm for three years, believes closer alliances will not only be forged with local authorities, but also the other emergency services, the Probation Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, Government departments, health authorities, charities and voluntary groups.
But he insists increased collaboration does not represent forces shirking responsibility.
His by now familiar war cry of "more bobbies on the beat" is hammered home as he spells out the challenges ahead:
"I don't think there will be an explosion in violent crime, but at the same time there is no sign of it abating.
"To combat this and reassure the public, we will see more police officers being deployed on the streets over the next five years, of that I have little doubt.
"Having more officers in close contact with the public results in more crimes being reported.
"It's not necessarily that offences are on the increase, it can simply be that people feel encouraged to take a stand.
"I think that is something the police will have to come to terms with, accepting a more realistic reflection of what is actually happening.
"Politicians eventually respond to what the public wants. And I have seen nothing to suggest that people do not want high-visibility policing."
The 53-year-old Chief believes domestic violence will increase and credit card and banking fraud will rocket, especially as Internet usage continues to grow.
But he is under no illusion that the fiercest enemy to be faced over the next decade remains drugs. Seventy to 80 per cent of all crime is currently drug-related.
"I see that figure increasing," predicts Mr Crew. "Despite what some people think, at the moment we in the UK take a moderate line on drugs, especially compared to countries in Asia and even America. …