Letter: What the police can, and cannot, do to fight crime

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The Independent Online
Sir: Peter Waddington's argument ("Finding a real job for Bobby", 1 March) that, as an instrument of crime-fighting, policing is largely an irrelevance relies on throw-away comments which trivialise the work of the police.

The demands of today's world preclude the "aimless wandering around" of patrols. In my own area, patrols are deployed in accordance with a planned and costed response to local problems, and results are evaluated in terms of the reduction in crime and disorder.

In detecting offenders, it is true that the police are not the main players. The value of co-operation from the public cannot be overestimated, and it depends so much on close contact with the community, developing mutual trust to overcome fear of reprisals and a belief that "the police can't do anything anyway".

When people ask the police to intervene in a situation, it is often because there is no one else to deal with it; it may be a dispute which poses little or no threat to public order - but yes, the uniform represents authority. The service is changing to meet new challenges; changing in appearance, too, as the necessity to introduce personal protective equipment gradually renders the traditional uniform obsolete. It is worth considering whether tomorrow's new-look patrols will appear less approachable to the public.

Chief Inspector Paul D Donnelly

Knowsley South Area

Merseyside Police