Monday 30 January 2012

A tale of two chief constables

Councillors who heard Chief Constable Ian Arundale address them at the January meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council, and members of the public who read reports of what he said in the local papers, might be forgiven for wondering if there are two Ian Arundales wandering around Carmarthenshire when they turn to the latest edition of Carmarthenshire News, the council's propaganda sheet. Assuming that they didn't use it as cat litter before reading it.

The Ian Arundale who went to County Hall cut a lonely figure, a sort of cross between Up Pompeii's Cassandra and Corporal Jones from Dad's Army, who warned of desperate times ahead, with cuts across the board, reductions in policing, the closure of more police stations, the likely loss of the police helicopter and a Dyfed Powys in which priority would be given only to major incidents, such as arresting bloggers who film snatches of council meetings (OK, I made that last bit up, sort of).

The Ian Arundale who beams out of the pages of Carmarthenshire News has an altogether happier story to tell. We will be getting a further 27 Police Community Support officers, crime rates continue to fall, detection rates are running at over 50%, and Dyfed Powys has even taken on more police officers, "one of the few forces nationally" to do so.

To drive this point home, Carmarthenshire News carries a second piece in the same edition reporting  reductions in crime across the Dyfed Powys area. Not one single category of crime has shown an increase - at least not in the statistics selected for this story.

Dyfed Powys is the most rural of any of the police forces in Wales and England, so low crime rates should be expected, but it is genuinely good to know that crime seems to be decreasing in general. Buried in the statistics, however, it is likely that there are some negative trends which the public should be made aware of. It is very likely, for example, that thefts of livestock and machinery from farms is on the rise; stealing heating oil seems to be increasingly common, as does theft of metals.

But back to the cuts. Last week, Dyfed Powys told the BBC that the helicopter would be safe for another couple of years.

The BBC also reported very briefly on the Ammanford police station scandal last week. Blink, and you would have missed the story on the evening news, but we were told that the station, built under one of the daftest PFI schemes in the history of lunatic PFI schemes, was currently costing the police £700,000 a year, and that the chief constable would be seeking to renegotiate the deal.

Ignoring criticism of the millions of pounds spent on building a massive new major incident centre at police headquarters near Carmarthen, the optimistic Mr Arundale went on to tell readers (probably just me and Caebrwyn's cat) of Carmarthenshire News that, "of course, we do get the occasional serious incident and we have the specialist resources to deal with those, but they are very rare in the county."

Corporal Jones-Arundale, on the other hand, told councillors that the centre had been built with money from the Welsh Government (true), that it was now a hive of activity and that various threats, such as terrorism, meant that the centre was a vital part of policing. Plus, he said, we should also remember the challenges posed by the Olympics.

So busy had the new state-of-the-art centre become, he told councillors, that a new post had been created to employ someone to drum up more business for it. Why, it could even be used by the County Council, he offered.

Presumably it will be a rather more comfy venue for Mark James and Meryl Gravell than the underground  (and abandoned) nuclear bunker below Spilman Street, as they watch the results come in in May's council elections.

One last little oddity. Carmarthenshire News is a bilingual propaganda sheet, so you can read the same stories in Welsh in the pages of Newyddion Sir Gâr. The police force's rather bumbling press office is not exactly known for its proficiency in written Welsh. Corporal Jones-Arundale was sent into the council chamber with a Powerpoint which contained just 5 words in Welsh, and one of those was horribly misspelled.

Presumably the correctly spelled Welsh versions of the two articles, with mutations of which the Arch-Druid himself would be proud, were put together by the county council's translators. I wonder if Mr Arundale got a bill for that?


Anonymous said...

been somewhat sceptical. when it was said crime was down (meaning reported crime was down) on page 2and given a trend of people not bothering to report something, does it mean crime is on the increase because we don't really know what goes on out there? the hidden agenda (anon2)

Anonymous said...

is this the same Dyfed Powys POLICE whom according to the south wlaes evening post ran a story. They have been accused of "playing down crime" after an appeal for information about a rape was made seven weeks after the incident ?

Anonymous said...

is this the same mr arundale that is in the walesonline today about they have to have the 5%? (anon2)