Britain's top police chief backs Chicago 'softly softly' app

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Britain's top police chief backs Chicago 'softly softly' app

Unread post by NW10 » February 10th, 2006, 4:19 am

Times Newspaper

February 7th 2006

Britain's top police chief backs Chicago 'softly softly' approach

AN AMERICAN police chief who advocates a "soft cop'' approach to crime-fighting has been adopted as a role model for British forces.

Supt Philip Cline, the head of the Chicago force and a champion of "community policing'', will visit London this week as the guest of Britain's most senior policeman, Sir Ian Blair.

His approach is in direct contrast to the "zero tolerance'' policing used successfully in New York which has won many admirers in Britain.

Supt Cline's "softly, softly'' strategy is credited with slashing the rate of offending in a city once known as America's crime capital. Sir Ian, the Metropolitan police commissioner, has told MPs that he admires Chicago's "marvellous'' approach and has started to replicate it with the introduction of six-strong teams of dedicated beat officers in parts of the capital. Supt Cline's approach is the opposite of the "hard cop'' tactics pioneered in New York by Bill Bratton, the former police chief, which British politicians on all sides have held up as a model since the mid-1990s.

The Chicago police chief, who arrives in Britain today, said: "People think community policing is soft on crime, but it is not. It is about enlisting the community to fight crime.''

New York's "zero-tolerance'' approach saw thousands of extra officers recruited to clean up the streets by arresting low-level offenders.

Murders fell by 50 per cent and overall crime by 41 per cent during the 1990s.

But Chicago achieved similar success, with fewer extra recruits, by holding street-corner meetings where beat officers listened to the concerns of residents and acted on them. The approach boosted public confidence and increased the flow of tip-offs about serious crimes.

In the seven years after Chicago launched its alternative policing strategy in 1994, robberies and gun crime fell 53 per cent while property crime fell 40 per cent. A report commissioned by the Home Office calls the initiative "strikingly successful''.

Last week, officials from the new Serious and Organised Crime Agency - dubbed the "British FBI'' and charged with tackling more than 1,000 known crime gangs - visited Chicago to pick up ideas.

Supt Cline said: "Our intelligence-led community policing started 13 years ago and we have seen reductions in crime every year.''

In one recent case, Chicago police took a call from a man who had been warned by a neighbour, who he knew to be involved in a crime gang, not to venture out after 5pm that day.

Supt Cline said: "We found that in a different part of the city that day, someone was shot by that gang. They were expecting retaliation, so we saturated the area and nothing happened that night.

"The community knows those gang members better than we do. They know where they're hiding, what they're doing and who they're hanging with. If they trust the police, they are going to be much more willing to come forward with information.'

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