In a bid to boost trust in the police, Jacqui Smith has unveiled a new scheme whereby victims of “minor” crime can send a text message instead of calling 999. The police will reply with a non emergency number and details of your local police and community support officers.
On the face of it the scheme may well have good intentions, but there are catches. Typically of this government, the scheme is an expensive one. The cost of advertising alone for the new scheme will hit a staggering £3.5m.
This is a huge sum and one that will undoubtedly trouble tax payers. Surely if the government is concerned about confidence in the police spending £3.5m advertising another gimmick will not help. The money could have been better used in recruiting more front line officers to go on the beat and have a visible presence on our streets.
There is the second catch – is this really a good alternative to actual frontline policing on the streets? Considering that the average starting wage for a police officer is £20,000 it is evident that £3.5m could make a significant contribution. Not only would spending this money on front line policing increase trust through extra police visibility but will also deter the kind of criminal behaviour that ruins communities.
However the most damning aspect of the advertising costs is the highly questionable timing. It is bad enough to spend £3.5m advertising a gimmick in a period of economic growth but during a recession the implications are more severe. Currently we are enduring record levels of government borrowing and the threat of future service cut backs and tax rises. Considering the situation taxpayers should not expect £3.5m to be spent advertising gimmicks. The public are tightening their belts and the government should follow by setting a good example and not squandering £3.5m in these difficult times.