Police force cut means patrol cars stand idle while citizens volunteer
- Policemen walked the streets in pairs, kept the peace at the town’s football ground and manned desks at the police station.
- The Cleveland force, which covers Hartlepool, has lost 500 uniformed men.
Many years ago I worked as a junior reporter in Hartlepool, a shipbuilding town of some 80,000-plus working class people in the northeast of England.
Three times a week I covered the magistrates’ court with its predictable offences: riding a bicycle without a red rear light, drunk and disorderly, breaking and entering and the occasional Saturday night dance hall punch-up.
Policemen walked the streets in pairs, kept the peace at the town’s football ground and manned desks at the police station. All very nice and orderly.
Today, you will be very lucky to see a policeman on the street or driving a patrol car in that small town. Drastic cuts in force numbers mean that Hartlepool has just ten officers on duty at any one time. It can take one to two hours to answer a 999 call and on one occasion it took 45 minutes to attend a burglary just around the corner from police HQ.
SIX POLICE VANS
One night recently there were six police vans and seven police cars parked outside the police station without a single officer in any of them.
Seeking to control public spending, the government has cut the police force nationally by 22,000 frontline officers.
The Cleveland force, which covers Hartlepool, has lost 500 uniformed men. The result has been an increase in crime in the town of 19 per cent.
The local newspaper reported that fewer than nine per cent of robberies, burglaries, arson and criminal damage were being solved.
Cleveland Chief Constable Mike Veale said, “The cuts caused by austerity are too deep and have gone on too long. It is about time that trend was reversed.”
One result of the paucity of police in Hartlepool has been that some citizens patrol the streets themselves. Terry Hughes, a former store detective, told a national newspaper that his team included a taxi driver, a factory worker, an IT specialist and a night club singer. Every night they drive through the suburbs, keeping an eye on homes, businesses and vehicles.
Terry denies they are vigilantes. “We are concerned citizens, who want our children, and grandchildren and neighbours to feel safe.” He wears a body camera and has a dashboard camera in his car and is equipped with a panic alarm.
The volunteers post reports of untoward incidents and any incriminating CCTV footage on Facebook. It sometimes has a deterrent effect in a close-knit community.
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Professional footballers are often seen as pampered millionaires with their flash cars, celebrity girlfriends and luxury homes. However, at least one player, an African, has proved an exception.
Newcastle United forward Christian Atsu has donated £7,000 to help poor people in his home country, Ghana. They included a mother and her two daughters who were locked up for stealing corn valued at just over one pound sterling. Atsu paid their £50 fine and they were released.
The charity Crime Check Foundation set up a Petty Offenders Fund to help Ghanaians jailed because they could not pay fines for misdemeanours. A spokesman said Atsu’s gifts would help 30 prisoners, nine of whom had already been released.
Atsu also paid for surgery on a gravely ill woman prisoner, aged 62, but she died during the operation.
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Talking football, back in 2005, Martin McCarthy placed a £100 bet with bookmaker William Hill that his son, Alex, then aged 15 and a goalkeeper for the small club Wimbledon, would one day play for England. The odds he was given were 100-1.
Last month, Alex made his international debut for his country against the United States at Wembley Stadium, and his dad collected winnings of £10,000.
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How would you like to earn £787 per minute? That’s what Britain’s former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson received when he delivered a two-hour speech to an American hedge fund, GoldenTree Asset Management in New York on November 2.
The total, £94,508, was described by opposition Labour MP Karl Turner as “grotesque.”
Johnson’s annual parliamentary salary is £77,000.
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The mobile phone is truly king.
A friend returning to the UK from Kenya reports that in the transit lounge during his stopover two people were reading newspapers, himself and one other. The remaining passengers, about 150 of them, were consulting screens of varying sizes.
But as for that …
Brian adored his wife Betty and for their first wedding anniversary, he bought her the latest model mobile phone. Betty was delighted. She loved its gleaming surfaces, its musical ringing tone, its many apps and its space-age design.
The next day Betty popped the phone into her handbag and went shopping in the local supermarket. Very soon, the cellphone rang. It was her loving husband asking how she liked her phone.
“It’s wonderful, darling,” she replied, “I like everything about it. There’s just one thing that puzzles me. How did you know I was in Tesco’s?”