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Should police chase targets before criminals?

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Funding for the police is higher than ever before and most crime rates are actually down. But public confidence in the forces is down too, according to surveys, and it's the law-abiding who most often feel coppers are no longer on their side.

Police at workHelen Newlove, widow of the murdered Gary Newlove believes it's the police system of trying to hit "targets" that is to blame. She feels the police should have been there for the earlier problems in their neighbourhood (though she does not fault them for their response on the night of Gary's death).

Helen: "It's the system they have in place, it's all targeted and they need to be more of a public service, not run as a business. We need the police to be there for us."

For The One Show, Justin Rowlatt looked at a response to public dissatisfaction with the police. Four forces; Leicestershire, Surrey, Staffordshire and West Midlands are involved in a pilot scheme to try to raise public confidence, named "Common Sense Policing". It essentially means that police are no longer are compelled to make arrests for every crime they come across. Supporters believe it cuts red tape and frees the police up to tackle more important crimes.

But there are opposing voices. Criminologist Elaine Campbell told Justin that she is worried about the fairness of the scheme - that it gives the police on the streets too much discretionary power. That it allows the police "to be judge and jury on a street level basis".

What do you think? Should the "Common Sense Policing" scheme be rolled out across the country? Was policing better when officers had more discretionary powers? Add your comment.


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