Letter by John Blundell in The Sunday Telegraph

Your report that just one in 58 police is patrolling the streets (News, March 18) focuses solely on the quantity of police on patrol and says nothing about the quality of work being undertaken. Two policemen walking down the street engrossed in conversation about their pensions or holidays (as one so often sees – and overhears) might as well have stayed in the station doing paperwork. They need to patrol mostly solo, on the alert, engaging the general population and thus winning their trust and confidence.

The town of Lowell, in Massachusetts, saw crime cut by two thirds when the police chief, Ed Davis, made police patrols the premier job of his officers and made the head of patrol his deputy, to send a clear message to his force about the importance of this function. As crime fell, people began to move back into the city and the price of office and residential properties rose.

John Blundell, Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs.

See also Crime: Economic Incentives and Social Networks