It's not quite the same as having the local bobby back on the beat, but a scheme trialled in south London that addresses public unease with the remote, impersonal nature of modern policing is set to be rolled out across London.
The £325 million Home Office plan will see each council ward assigned a team of police and community support officers, with residents given a mobile phone number and email address to contact their local team directly. People in Lambeth were the first to try it out, and initial results suggest it helped cut crime, with officers better informed about exactly what was going on.
Never one to knowingly miss a photo op, Gordon Brown hot-footed it to south London yesterday with his Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in tow to personally give his approval to the plan. The theory is that residents who know the local cops, and can interact with them and report such nuisances as anti-social behaviour to a sympathetic nearby ear instead of a faceless emergency operator, will feel more comfortable that their concerns are being properly addressed.
Hailed by Chief Constable Matt Baggott as "the best thing the police had done in decades", it was simultaneously derided by the Tories as a "gimmick", often political shorthand for "damn, we wish we'd thought of that first".
The scheme is set to roll out across the city in April of this year, which gives the Met ample time to train officers how to trawl through a cyber-mile of txt spk, cute kitten pics and requests from bored housewives for a man in uniform.
Image from Homemade's Flickrstream