Death of Neighbourhood Policing - RGP unable to keep one time flagship policy alive!

Leo Olivero

Once hailed, only a few short years ago as the RGP’s flagship policy ‘Neighbourhood Policing’ was an important policing strategy that flatly fell on it’s face into obscurity! 

But it’s fair to say, the absence of neighborhood police officers has not gone unnoticed with the public, at a time when this promising initiative was beginning to take shape and produce dividends.

This important strategic police initiative has now disappeared after ‘neighborhood policing units’ who were officers selected to police residential areas have vanished.

Government also Involved

Even the Government were involved providing premises from the housing stock to be used as small police sub-stations or district police offices, the government even providing 15 bicycles and other equipment for neighbourhood policing areas. Premises, that were strategically selected around Gibraltar. Sadly, no police presence has been seen in these locations for some years now!

Neighbourhood policing, and not only in Gibraltar, was widely regarded as the ‘bedrock’ of Local and of British policing. However, police forces and services have adapted their operating models to new funding and demand challenges, even the form in which neighbourhood policing is delivered has diversified, and in some places diminished as we have seen with the RGP and the policing direction they are now heading?

I agree with those concerns that have been raised that the ability of the police to prevent crime may be undermined if neighbourhood-policing teams are totally lost for good!

In fact, in the UK ‘Hybrid’ roles (for example, combining neighbourhood functions with response or investigation work) have been introduced and officers in some forces are no longer attached to specific localities.

The issue is the meaning of neighbourhood policing which is becoming more vague and agreement on what it is and how it should function today, now comes with various interpretations.

Though it is true to say, that policing adapts to societies needs, which might be a reflection how neighbourhoods and society itself has also changed becoming more diverse and different. Creating a situation that makes policing needs more difficult to identify and understand.

Focus of Policing Has Changed

Likewise police focus has also changed, with new emphases on ‘hidden’ harm and vulnerability and as we heard last week with the big play on ‘cross border police cooperation’ which very much appears to have superseded previous local policing objectives as promoting public confidence, providing visible reassurance and tackling crime and antisocial behaviour in public areas!

Neighbourhood policing was an excellent policing initiative. The police boasted at the time that to achieve sustainability and a more direct approach to tackle everyday problems ‘Neighbourhood Policing would be the RGP’s Flagship Policy’.

This initiative also received the support of the Government, with four Multi-Agency District offices. The district office made police presence easily accessible and a place where community engagement could take place to identify the public’s priorities

At the time, the RGP explained to the public that the long term impact of establishing these district police offices was yet to be measured, the RGP further adding at the time, “the presence of police officers in the neighbourhoods is a welcome move and already proving to be a success in its early days with positive comments from shop owners, residents and the tenants associations representing them”. That impact will now never be measured!

The police actually never made a public statement they were winding down or doing away with neighbourhood policing. RGP officers just never appeared again. Although the neighbourhood policing initiative and all the details is still up on the RGP website.

Can I inform the police... that many countless people have visited and telephoned these small district officers? Probably to share a concern or report any issue or perhaps just to see a real live police officer in uniform on their estate, a rare sight anywhere these days. The police in local neighbourhoods have been absent; they did not keep to their word and let the public down!

If the police had manpower issues and were not able to keep their flagship policing strategy afloat...why was this not communicated to the public, what was so difficult in putting up a sign to inform the public that police district offices were not being manned or used any longer by the RGP, this would have been a bright idea and the right thing to do!

And what was so technologically challenging for the RGP to leave a recorded message on the district office telephone number... informing the public they had manpower problems, if that was indeed the case.

And why were social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and the RGP official website not used to inform the public that their police service were actually up to and why they were unable to interact with the public and listen and understand their concerns.

This was a very poor and unprofessional manner for the RGP to deal with or kill off a so-called important strategic operational flagship policy...when you consider Neighbourhood Policing promoted as ‘police commitment to improve a neighbourhood’s quality of life’ targeting the issues identified by the people affected and living in the district!

In a few short years, we have seen that neighbourhood policing is not only under threat, but dead. The police are also at risk of retreating into reactive policing philosophy or model and not being where they should be...amongst the public, listening to their concerns. Instead of being involved in public campaigning how they are at the core of international police cooperation!