Bring back the ‘bobby on the beat’

Strolling through the Market Square last week (6 April), it was a pleasant surprise to see a police officer on duty in the city centre. Following reported incidents of anti-social behaviour and drinking near the library, PC Catterick had taken to the streets to resolve the problem.

Whatever the problem might have been, PC Catterick appeared to have everything reassuringly under control. Wiltshire Police said that combating this type of behaviour is a “force priority” to promote safer public places, and many people were pleased to see ‘a bobby on the beat’.

This week, a very different story emerged in the Salisbury Journal online on the same topic prompted by a rant by an outraged Cllr Hocking. Concerned by an “…increase in rough sleepers in the Culver Street and Central Car Parks…” as well as “… street drinking and anti-social behaviour…”

He added: “… I am sure we will hear the usual bleating… Waagh Waagh, It’s the Tories, it’s the Tories… but it’s frankly high time the Leaders of this City started to take responsibility for their actions and do something about those issues which had been dealt with for years, but through their own deliberate interventions are now returning to haunt us all…”

This view does not take into account the bigger picture and is not consistent with the view of the Wiltshire Council Conservative administration on tackling anti-social behaviour.

In July 2022, Wiltshire Police commissioner, Paul Wilkinson, presented a more enlightened view of the situation and indicated the police force had a key role to play. He said: “… I am very aware of the incidents that have been happening in Salisbury and inspector Tina Osborn, who is head of the community policing team, is on the case. I have asked her to give priority to solving it…”

Mr Wilkinson stated: “You can’t say there is a general rise…” in ASB across the board, hot spots suddenly form as more crimes ‘flair up’. This could be because of “all sorts of social and underlying economic reasons.”

His approach aims to address the methods police have been using previously. He said: “ …Traditionally, the police are trying to figure out who to talk to. The job of my office is to facilitate police action and deliver a multi-agency approach…”

He also acknowledges there is still a need for a police station in Salisbury, like many other cities who lost theirs during widespread government cuts to the force.

Last month, the prime minister said that a £160 million plan will “stamp out” anti-social behaviour “once and for all” as he pledged more police patrols and swifter punishments for those blighting communities.

This is another government ‘sticking plaster’ solution for a national issue. Clearly, a parish council has an obligation to work with the police, but has neither the capacity nor the budget to take the lead responsibility.

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