Friday Focus: This is no way to handle crime

PUBLISHED: 13:26 17 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:42 28 May 2010

I have a few words of advice for our local police forces: Don t allow your officers to demonstrate the same level of initiative as those in Dorset. Shopkeepers in Bournemouth were angry and upset when their local bobby told them not to bother reporting sh

I have a few words of advice for our local police forces: Don't allow your officers to demonstrate the same level of initiative as those in Dorset.

Shopkeepers in Bournemouth were angry and upset when their local bobby told them not to bother reporting shoplifting cases involving goods worth less than £75.

Why? Basically because responding to such trivia was a drain on resources and officers had better things to do.

To make matters worse the twerp of a constable suggested traders should order potential shoplifters out of their shops to avoid crimes being committed.

The furore following this blatant insult to traders - who pay heavy taxes and business rates and expect at least a basic level of support from the establishment - has forced Dorset's police hierarchy to distance themselves from this efficiency initiative.

They say that despite their constable's best intentions, the letter does not reflect a policy change.

I'm sure all Bournemouth shopkeepers are delighted to hear it, but this silly tale does highlight a nationwide problem. Our police forces are under-funded. That is demonstrably true of those serving our Fenland communities.

I'm sure countless Fenland residents will have their own stories to tell about the shortcomings of our cash-strapped police. Lack of officers on the beat would probably top the list.

And I can imagine the outcry, the disbelief, the anger, if any Fen trader was told to apply such an offensive tariff.

Police in Norwich, however, have come up with a commendable initiative which clearly ought to be passed on to other forces. They suggest sloshing Jeyes fluid in stairwells of flats in the hope that the pungent odour will stop gangs of youths and all manner of miscreants gathering there.

If the idea catches on it could do wonders for this smelly disinfectant's sales. And it offers the opportunity for a great advertising slogan: Jeyes cuts the crime as well as the grime'.

Still on the subject of crime, I note that a recent Government initiative tends to refute the persistent claims that our establishment is going soft on criminals.

A Home Office policy document says criminals serving community sentences may be needed to help prepare sites to the 2012 London Olympics. No doubt they will be helping dig trenches and smash concrete. Sounds a bit like the chain gang to me.

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