Save our police stations

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Offline the leveller

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Save our police stations
« on: March 22, 2018, 10:04:12 AM »
Excerpt from article below:
Francis Maude, the former cabinet secretary who came up with the digital first strategy, made it quite clear four years ago that the state wasn't going to tolerate what he called “refuseniks” who did not want to use computers.
“Our point is that everything that can be delivered online, should be delivered online and only online.”
Save our police stations – We need visible police presence on our streets 24 hours a day
NO ONE expects the police to be using the methods of Dixon of Dock Green. If technology is available to make their work more effective they – just like anyone else – would be mad not to use it. Yet there's something disturbing about the Government's stealthy drive to get us to report crime online rather than in person.
PUBLISHED: 10:11, Mon, Mar 19, 2018 | UPDATED: 11:02, Mon, Mar 19, 2018

The days of Dixon of Dock Green are long gone
It was revealed yesterday that Leicestershire police is running a campaign for the public to report crime via its website, complaining that it costs them £120 to send a patrol car to the scene of a crime, £30 for an officer to receive a report at a police station and £10 to take down details over the phone.
Apparently it is all part of a hitherto little-known £4.5million scheme to move the reporting of crime online across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Eventually there will be a single police website covering all three where we can log on and report anything from a mugging to dangerous driving.
It isn’t that I have a phobia of technology nor that I have a romantic attachment to the sight of an old-style police station with a blue lamp hanging outside. I don’t hanker after the days when I had to queue up at the local post office to buy a car tax disc – something which now takes minutes online.
I even welcome the chance to contact the police via the internet. What worries me is that before very long the only way to contact the police will be via a computer.

Softly Softly – more old-style coppers we could do with more of
And I fear a police website will be used as an excuse to close down yet more police stations and remove even more officers from roles where they come into face-to-face contact with the public. It isn't hard to guess what will happen. The overall number of crimes being reported will surge as it becomes easier to report them, with just a few clicks. It will fuel, for example, the explosion in reported sex crimes which has occurred since the stories about Sir Jimmy Savile emerged six years ago.
It will no doubt be easier to get a crime number if, for example, you need to make an insurance claim. But if you actually want a burglar apprehended, forget it. If police are counting on saving the £10 they say it costs them for an officer to answer the telephone it suggests they are budgeting virtually nothing for solving the crime.
The offences we report online will disappear into a computer and be spewed out again as statistics. Whether a human being actually reads the details of many of the reported crimes is another matter.
We should be worried, too, that online reporting will encourage spurious reporting of incidents such as car crashes staged for fraudulent whiplash claims and date rape claims which fall apart when cases reach court. At the moment, fraudsters and fantasists at least have a disincentive to lie in that they have to speak to a real, policeman or woman when reporting a crime. How much easier to make a bogus report when you can do it online.

Z Cars – Everton FC still use their theme tune at every home game
While many people will find it much easier to report crime, there are others who, I fear, will find it much more difficult. The people who will lose out are those who need the police the most: the poor in crime-infested urban neighbourhoods, elderly people who don't own computers and anyone who lives in a remote area with poor internet connections.
The idea of a police national computer is part of something which the Government calls its “digital first” strategy. What that means in practice is that it will encourage us to do things online by making it extremely difficult to do those same things offline.
We have seen it all before. A prime example is the Dartford Crossing over the Thames between Essex and Kent. Four years ago, all the toll booths were replaced by signs telling you to pay online – and to do this by midnight tomorrow or you will be fined £70.
There is, technically, a way to pay the toll other than via a computer. You can visit a shop which accepts something called Payzone payments...if you can find one. But of course, it is easy to forget – especially if you are doing what many people are doing when they use the Dartford Crossing – heading to catch a cross-Channel ferry. This new online system has become a cash-cow for the state, with 3.5 million fines for late payment issued in the first two years alone.

Four years ago, all the toll booths on the Dartford Crossing were replaced
The drive to make us report crime online will end in a similar farce. It will be all right for young people in urban areas with smartphones. If they have any property stolen – assuming it isn’t the phone itself – they will be able to report it to the police in seconds.
But what about people who are not so adept at using the internet, or who live where there is very poor broadband? You can guess what will happen: the Government will boast of having slashed the number of reported muggings – when in fact many will have gone unreported because their elderly victims have not been able to report them.
It seems not to occur to the young graduates who devise most government policy and who dreamt up the idea of the digital first strategy, that not everyone has a computer or knows how to use one. Surprising though it might seem to some people, one in 10 Britons has never used the internet.
As for smartphones, which we are expected to use for every purpose now, a huge proportion of the population do not use them because they are too fiddly or because they cannot read the tiny screens. Among 16-24 year olds, 90 per cent own a smartphone, while among the over-65s it is just 18 per cent.

Francis Maude has no sympathy for those who cannot use computers or are blind
The Government loves to talk about “inclusivity” and social disadvantage, but that all seems to go out of the window when ministers see a way of saving money by forcing public services online.
Francis Maude, the former cabinet secretary who came up with the digital first strategy, made it quite clear four years ago that the state wasn't going to tolerate what he called “refuseniks” who did not want to use computers.
“Our point is that everything that can be delivered online, should be delivered online and only online.”
He should tell that to people with arthritis or who are registered blind.
I suspect Dixon of Dock Green would have loved the internet age in some ways. He would have liked tweeting “Evenin’ all” to the residents on his beat.
I am all for government making life easier by enabling us to do some things online. But don’t make the internet the only way to report crime. If we would rather go to a police station, we should be made just as welcome as we would have been in PC Dixon’s day.

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