On Friday night local MP, Mark Field, turned assistant crimefighter as he joined the City of London police’s Special Constabulary for a patrol of the Square Mile. Joining him were Keith Knowles, Chairman of the City of London’s Police Committee, and Julia, Mark’s parliamentary researcher.
The City of London Special Constabulary is one of the smallest in the country. With an area of only one square mile to cover, policing might look simple. However, the potential threats to the world’s leading financial centre, and the complexities of managing a day-time population of 375,000 but fewer than 8,000 permanent residents, make policing challenging.
The City has about 75 Specials, a team of dedicated volunteers who help to police the streets on top of their normal jobs. Despite the relatively small size of the team the variety in their work is perhaps the best illustration nationally of innovative deployment and use of the Special Constabulary. City Specials have the longest basic training period in the UK and the most intensive tutoring programme to get to independent patrol status. That gives their regular colleagues the confidence to use them in a wide variety of roles.
Mark discussed policing issues with the City’s Assistant Commander before joining a team of Specials on patrol on one of their busy Friday nights. They were tasked with neighbourhood policing and dealing with response calls both on foot and in the public order patrol van. Friday nights in the Square Mile have traditionally been quiet affairs with the working population heading to the West End for after hours entertainment. However, in recent years, a large number of night time bars and clubs have opened their doors in the City, putting greater pressure on the local police force as alcohol-related disorder has increased.
Mark was astounded by the incredibly fast response times of the team who are aided by the high-tech cameras and recognition software that alert them to potential problems. The City Police’s control room operates an impressive network of CCTV cameras that keeps a close eye on crime hotspots and entry points into the Square Mile. This is particularly important in the City’s work to prevent terrorist attacks as computer software is able to quickly link to the DVLA’s database to alert police to stolen, uninsured or untaxed vehicles.
The City of London Police supports its Specials from all levels and the Specials’ tremendous enthusiasm for and commitment to their role was clear for Mark to see. By giving volunteers real powers, the City has managed to create a team that can actually fight crime effectively, enriching the lives of the Specials and adding to a visible police presence on the streets.
Mark left the patrol ever more convinced that the City of London Police’s effective policing model should be rolled out across the capital so that all boroughs can benefit from having a visible, localised police force for their area.