Must real crime just go whistle? says ANNE DIAMOND

Must real crime just go whistle? says ANNE DIAMOND

Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs' Council and former boss of Thames Valley Police, has certainly thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by stating what is clearly on other chief constables' minds: that pursuing offenders for so-called hate crimes, misogyny and even racial abuse is not the job of a modern police force.

She said they should instead focus on the likes of knife crime and burglary, which is what ordinary people want anyway. A sort of "back to basics" approach.

And I guess that, in these financially constrained times, she's right.

'The fact there We have to prioritise crimes, don't we? I'd love it if we could do more to tackle racism, hatred and misogyny. I get how wolfwhistles can become threatening.

I understand that allegations against the dead should in a perfect world by investigated thoroughly, for the sake of the survivors.

But if you'd just been burgled, wouldn't you rather your local police concentrate on your case than go after the nearest wolf-whistler?

On the face of it, it may sound stupid, but in Nottinghamshire they have recategorised wolf-whistling as a hate crime in an effort to tackle sexist abuse.

When the move was launched a couple of years ago, it was hailed as forwardthinking and one which would make the county's streets safer for all women.

And they were indeed right to understand that women face, often on a daily basis, abuse and harassment which can be extremely distressing.

When I was a student, I remember having to walk past building sites every day and put up with streams of sexist cat-calling, whistling and jeering. And near the railway station, there were often dirty old men who would expose themselves if you weren't careful.

It was never acceptable but it was, sort of, tolerated. And it was horrible. To those who think wolf-whistling is funny - and I have heard so many commentators on TV and radio say flippantly, "Oh, I wouldn't mind being whistled at!" - I say you just don't know what a torment it can be.

So in a perfect world, where we had enough money to recruit more police, pay them well and back them up with strong resources, I'd be more than happy for them to stamp out hate crime and harassment.

But our police forces are simply too stretched to tackle everything. And as Ms Thornton pointed out, there are other ways and other organisations that can tackle such behaviour.

She said: "We are asked to provide more and more bespoke services that are all desirable - but the simple fact is there are too many desirable and deserving issues.

"For example, treating misogyny as a hate crime is a concern for some well-organised campaigning organisations."

She cited historical inquiries as "another example of issues that matter very much to some but they undoubtedly take resources away from dealing with today's crime today".

Her state of the nation speech made pretty depressing news but it is a message we should take seriously. There has been a slew of statistics and reports about the effectiveness of police.

For instance, the number of arrests in England and Wales has halved in a decade, while recorded crime is rising across a number of categories including homicide and knife-related offences.

Force leaders point to a 19 per cent real-term decrease in funding and a fall of more than 20,000 in officer numbers since 2010. As Ms Thornton said, we are seeing fewer police and more crime. Back to basics may be the only way forward.

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