Police invisibility leaves us feeling so much less secure

THE old saying out of sight, out of mind carries much truth. When the boss is off, don t we work with a fraction less intensity than when he s there? And when the wife is away, are our standards of cleanliness and personal hygiene not perhaps relaxed?

THE old saying "out of sight, out of mind" carries much truth. When the boss is off, don't we work with a fraction less intensity than when he's there? And when the wife is away, are our standards of cleanliness and personal hygiene not perhaps relaxed? "Out of sight, out of mind" we are all familiar with, but everyone knows that this is procrastination. The boss will return and expect the job done, the wife will come back and require trousers on and rubbish out. Nevertheless, it's true that the presence of an authority figure encourages proper behaviour: it reinforces positive conduct and discourages the bad.

In no way is this more important than with the police, their visibility on the streets of our community and city and the perception, both of their presence and of their effectiveness. From this point of view, we are in trouble.

Our own community of Camden should be able to count on some 800 police officers, men and women who have chosen to serve and protect their homes, their neighbours and neighbourhoods, often at great personal risk. Their sense of duty, of self-abnegation and dedication are astounding.

And yet of these 800 police officers, only 80 are actually in a position to walk the streets. Eighty men and women by themselves cannot effectively patrol a surface of 22 sq km. They will inevitably miss large parts of Camden. They will inevitably be noted more by their absence than by their presence. They will inevitably be perceived as simply not being there.

Why is this? Why is only roughly 10 per cent of Camden's police force on the streets? Are the remaining 720 officers tied up in the offices with bureaucracy, with duties and tasks that our outside the original remit of any law enforcement agency? Caught up trying to comply with the social engineering duties and tasks Mayor Livingstone has foisted on them?

A policeman's job is to protect the community and apprehend criminals. The best way a policeman can do this, the best way they can reassure the general public that on our streets the rule of law will be respected, the best way they can put our fears of violence and crime to rest, the best way they can deter and discourage the delinquent mind from committing acts of violence and villainy, is by being out on the roads of Camden, where they can keep a watchful eye and they can be seen.

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The presence of a police officer will deter those who might be encouraged, in their absence, to commit mischief. And the police themselves should be freed of the odd social engineering duties the current London mayor has foisted upon them, and freed of the bureaucratic impediments that discourage them from apprehending criminals, thus allowing them to not only be seen, but be seen to be effective.

The perception of a police force and of its effectiveness are necessary, if not essential, elements for the successful survival of any community, especially one as rich and diverse as Camden. The more the police are tied up dealing with tasks outside their remit, the less they can perform their core duties. And the more the police are out of sight, the more, to the delinquent, are respect of the law and fear of punishment out of mind.

Over the last eight years we as a community have felt less and less secure on the streets of Camden. And in those same eight years our current mayor has only responded with platitudes, statistics and more special task forces that, however noble or well-intentioned their goals, simply drain resources from the limited amount of available police we have. Rarely has there been such an evident disconnect between the general public's fears and perceptions and the dry words coming out of City Hall.


West End Lane, NW6