Public could take 'bigger role' fighting crime amid police cuts, chief constable says

The public could take a "bigger role" in keeping neighbourhoods safe amid lower police numbers, according to a senior officer.

West Midlands Chief Constable David Thompson said the public could become more "active citizens" in their communities, and act as "extra eyes, ears and - on occasion - hands" of the police.

He added he would "never ask the public to do the job of police", and was not expecting people to "jump in and do dangerous things".

Chief constable of West Midlands Police
David Thompson, chief constable of West Midlands Police, has said the public could be more "active citizens".

Mr Thompson said: "One shift I would like to see in 2018 is the public playing a bigger role, involving the public as active citizens in their area.

"It's not about doing the job of the police, but playing a stronger part in their communities, keeping an eye out for neighbours or mobilising and helping the police when we perhaps need a bit of assistance".

West Midlands Police's top officer said he wanted to see a change in people's attitudes as he pointed to his own force's loss of more than 2,000 officers since 2010 due to budget cuts.

Mr Thomspon, who runs the largest police force outside London, said: "I'd never ask the public to do the job of the police, but there's a lot less police.

"There's 2,200 less police officers here in the West Midlands, since 2010.

"It's a big reduction and I'm not surprised some of our visibility feels a bit lower in communities."

He said such help might extend to simply looking out for neighbours or delivering advice leaflets in their local area, after a spate of burglaries.

Mr Thompson said: "What we would all recognise is living in communities, there's probably a bit more we can do to keep an eye on our neighbours, to keep an eye on what's going on in the area, actually to challenge very basic things, to act as extra eyes, ears and - on occasion - hands for the police."

He added that he was also having to "look more carefully" at use of resources in criminal investigations, as the force lives within its means, amid an overhaul of its workings - dubbed WMP2020 - to create a more efficient organisation.

Mr Thompson said the rule of law was still "really important", and that criminals would always be hunted.

"But at the same time things have got a lot more complex," he added, saying there was "a precious level of resource, particularly to investigate crime".

He added: "I don't believe in drawing a line under certain things (offences).

"What we try and do is make really good decisions and trust our officers ... and to prioritise what we do."

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