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‘Preventing crime more important than catching criminals’

The police should focus more on preventing crime in the first place than catching criminals afterwards, the chief inspector of the constabulary has suggested.

Tom Winsor, who has spent his first six months in his new role listening to frontline and senior officers, gave a speech to the Royal United Services Institute calling for a return to the basic mission of police; to prevent crime and disorder.

In it, he said: “The purpose of the police is to prevent crime taking place and to keep people safe. Sir Robert Peel, who founded the modern police service in 1829, said the primary test is the absence of crime and disorder.”

Ahead of his speech, he told the BBC: “Prevention is far better than cure. If we can prevent an offence taking place, we can prevent fewer victims which is critical and also we save all of those costs.”

His recommendation comes as the think tank Policy Exchange publishes a report, ‘Rebooting the PC’, suggesting that some police stations be shut down and replaced with modern versions of police boxes for people to give statements and receive information, as well as putting ‘cops in shops’.

“These would be technologically-enabled police contact points featuring two-way audio-visual technology so that members of the public could communicate directly with police staff,” the report says.

Humberside Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Donald, who leads on neighbourhood policing for ACPO, said: “We need to think differently to equip policing for the years ahead, identifying and sharing what helps – be it 'cop shops', public contact booths or Special Constables and volunteers complementing the way we patrol communities.”

But Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents frontline officers, said police stations “are accessible to the public, all day and night, something which is not provided by local shops and businesses”.

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