St Albans and Bath – two perennially proud Roman cities: historical and architectural emeralds of the country – don’t even have police stations. Yes – thanks to Tory austerity, this utterly shocking reality really has just come true.
The two Southern UK cities can now define themselves as entirely police station-less in the wake of devastating central government cuts which have forced Scotland Yard to decimate the police’s community presence all across the country.
This is the real effect of austerity, as it forces police stations to be boarded up with graffitied MDF and the iconic blue lamps either side dusted and cob-webbed over, emfeebled and dim.
St. Albans – home to 140,000 people – lost its police station in 2015, and, in a stunning coincidence, crime – particularly robberies and burglaries – has risen by a monumental 26% since 2016.
Perhaps – given St Albans’ MP’s membership of the Conservative party – this is simply the turkeys’ Christmas coming home to the leafy Shires.
Additionally, though, there are darker reasons for such a leap in robberies and burglaries in and around St Albans. As those hardest hit by austerity, with their support networks crumbling and their horizons contracting into pin-sized holes, the desperate turn to crime to survive – particularly through the wealthy towns of the Shires: St Albans, Harpenden and London Colney.
It is as though Tory austerity has sought to undertake a profoundly successful pincer attack on cohesive and peaceful society in this country. The safety nets have been removed from beneath people in desperate situations – financial cushions which have historically prevented such people from committing desperate acts – contributing to a rise in crime, and simultaneously, central government funding has been gutted from Scotland Yard and any hopes of effective policing has been sold.
Likewise, Bath had its police station sold off in 2015 and saw a 219% surge in robberies and burglaries in 5 years, while the number of violent offences doubled.
More widely, Gloucesteshire Police report having sold 21 out of 28 of their police stations while 24 out of 60 have been lost in the Thames Valley area.
In response, of course, the Home Office – like the Tory Government writ large – trots out the same damned line: ‘the nature of crime is changing and so must policing’. As if decimating the real, flesh and blood bobbies’ presence on our streets is a tactical move, and not one plainly borne of necessity by a police force shivering as the wind graces its bare bones.
This, the bastards say, as good ol’ fashioned knife crime is at its highest levels since 2011.
Certainly, cybercrime is rising and – with the ever-increasing speed of technological change – will only continue to do so, but such increase does not displace human crimes – and will not, until we have all uploaded our consciousnesses to the WWW ether.
Terrifyingly, Scotland Yard has also now admitted that it has “run out of things to sell”. That is the statement of a public institution being grasped around the throat by a vindictive government.
It follows a waning police force, having lost 7,000 of its number over 3 years, and a former Scotland Yard Commissioner warning of a loss of control.
It is not only the reactive ability that a police station engenders into the local police force, though, which is a loss to mourn. So too is it the communitarian atmosphere engendered by these institutions and their localistic nature. Much the same as losing courts across the country, losing local police stations tears something from a community.
To have your local police force contactable via a direct line, accessible from a flourescent yellow box outside a council building – all centralised and tapping fervently onto keyboards in the new war on crime: anonymous and lofty and distant – detaches the institutions of state from the citizens for whom they’re responsible.
Pride and a sense of self-sufficiency is lost when institutions like police stations, hospitals and courts are taken from localities and removed, further coalescing, further detracting, merging and heaving in a gelatinous bureaucratic mess two trains and a bus away that you can only contact via an 0800 number.
Removal of police stations – and courts and hospitals and nursing homes and youth centres and parks – simply reduces people’s communities to nought more than a collection of houses, a gargantuan warehouse shopping centre and some roundabouts.
Your police might ride in to dispense justice when summoned, but they will turn back afterwards to their central command post, leaving you with only the telephone, the 0800 number and hope when you’re being robbed. It’s too expensive otherwise.