A bit of a mixed bag this week, having been away for a couple of weeks enjoying Christmas with family and then back to work with a stint of training. While I was away the Team carried on valiantly (or effortlessly) without me; always nice to know they can cope but even more worrying is to realise they can cope without you!!
Public Order Training
For me it was straight back to work with a bang (literally) as I returned to a Public Order Training Course (Riot Training in other words). A few days of Bricks and Petrol Bombs being thrown at you certainly gets you back into the swing of things. Those petrols bombs certainly kept me warm on some very chilly evenings last week!
It’s interesting training because it puts a lot of physical demands on you while at the same time making you think about whats happening around you, crowd dynamics and working to prevent incidents escalating. A big part of this is communication – communication with crowds and individuals, with those protesting and with those not involved. Nothing like trying to make decisions while someone throws bricks and petrol bombs at you! It certainly kept the mind buzzing!
I spoke with a local in a little while back and among other things that she raised was her concern about the high level of crime in her area - “Well, you know how dangerous it is around here what with everything that’s happening in our street”. As the conversation went on I was thinking to myself did I miss-hear where she had said she lived. My mind was working overtime trying to figure out what it was that was the issue but there was no crime wave, there was no breakdown in law and order. The lady had been subject of an offence two years previously and there had been one other minor theft in the street since then but that was all that I could find that we had recorded. Now I know that people don’t always tell us about everything that is happening but I believe that I have a reasonably good idea of what the reality is across our communities. The crime wave that this lady was describing was totally at odds with reality however her fear was real because that is how she genuinely felt – and that is one of the key issues for us in policing and for our communities across Dudley. Peoples perceptions are influenced by all sorts of things (previous incidents, neighbours, news, rumors, etc).
I was able to get this lady to look at the National Crime Mapping website and together over the phone we compared what was being reported to us and what she felt was happening in her area. She was surprised that there were not as many incidents as she thought (even accepting that not everything is reported). The Crime Maps website will allow you to view recorded incidents for your area and also has links to local policing teams, its well worth a look from time to time.
Safe and Well
This weekend we had a continuation of a frequent problem that we encounter. It’s most common at weekends, particularly after Friday or Saturday Night – people who call us but then can’t be found. During these nights we often get calls from people reporting all sorts of things but it’s generally an assault or something causing concern for their welfare. When we then go to meet up with them they aren’t there. No reply at the home address (if we’re lucky enough to have it!), phone calls remain unanswered, messages left produce no further contact. For a few callers you think, fair enough they obviously don’t want to talk to us, so its left there. But many of the calls contain something that indicates a certain level of risk – something that causes us to be worried that we cannot find the caller, allegations of assault, disorder heard in the background of the phone call, etc. There then follows a series of enquiries trying to find them – checks with hospitals, previous addresses, family, friends, etc. Generally we manage to catch up with them but sometimes it can take a few days – a bit worrying when someone says they have been assaulted and then cannot be found!
When we find them though their reason for going missing generally is that a call was made whilst drunk and then, when sober, realise that they don’t really want to talk to us. Sometimes though it’s genuine fear, Domestic Abuse related calls are a frequent cause for concern and these can be the most difficult to resolve. We have to balance the risk of letting the possible offender know that the victim has called with the urgency of finding the caller. Speaking with the caller in these circumstances requires a lot of tact and care but there is now a very good support network in place for victims of Domestic Violence both from police and partners.
We had an opportunity as a Team to all get together this week and one of the issues we spent quite a bit of time discussing was Antisocial Behaviour (ASB), in particular how we in the Control Room could influence how it’s dealt with. During most evenings in the Dudley Control Room we receive a range of calls reporting Antisocial Behaviour. The frequency of the calls varies throughout the year depending on weather and school holidays but the one constant is the irritation and often genuine fear that some of the victims feel as a result of this behaviour. Each of the local Neighbourhood Teams across Dudley are tackling their issues but we in the Control Room are looking to ensure that we are also taking an active part in getting the patrols to the right areas and providing reassurance and ongoing support to victims.
So anyway, it’s a new year and there are many challenges ahead. Personally, one of the challenges for me is to keep this blog updated regularly (I flagged a little towards the end of the year) and importantly to keep it interesting and relevant for all of our communities across Dudley and indeed for those readers further afield. If there are issues or particular areas that you would like me to discuss then please let me know, otherwise all you get are my ramblings!
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