QUALITY ENGAGEMENT - North Kent MAG hosted the first of a series of public meetings on motorcycle theft

April 2023

North Kent MAG motorcycle theft

Colin Brown looks at the main themes raised at the meeting.

Thanks to the vast effort put into organising the event by Steve Mallett and Julian (JC) Quinton, the Kent public meeting was a great success. It is always hard to guess how many will turn up when laying on this kind of meeting. I think the fact that so many came out on a wet Wednesday evening is testament to the fact that riders are passionate on this subject.

I was wondering whether we would get any ‘MAG should be doing more’ sentiment, but I suppose with the Kent PCC, Matthew Scott, and Kent Police sat down the table from me, we were pretty safe. The fact that MAG had organised the meeting is of course the perfect demonstration of what MAG can and is doing.  We were providing the platform for riders to hold people to account.  In my opinion, the opportunity to ask questions and make criticisms face to face is far more effective than any social media ranting. The immediacy of an environment where questions cannot be selected, vetted and sanitised is worth the effort.

The authorities could not brush off a lobbyist’s claims as exaggerating the true interest of those we represent. It was quality engagement. Equally it was civilised and respectful.

We were treated to information from the police and what I thought was a reasonable willingness to accept the need for improvement by the PCC. It was acknowledged that the service received via 101 is sub-optimal, but it was interesting to see promotion of Kent Police’s “My Community Voice” system. This is a system that allows individuals to communicate directly with police officers as opposed to through a call centre. The Police need for intelligence is undeniable, but experience with reporting and updating through 101 shows that the civilian call handlers largely muffle the messages.

The question of communication was probably the most stressed issue coming through from the audience. There was a clear message that the good people of Kent want to see real police officers in their communities doing patrols on foot. This may seem anachronistic to some and certainly it is a reversal of the trends in policing over the last half century. The bobby on the beat is something that is valued by the public, and I think, for good reasons. A police force that rides around in cars and communicates remotely and often through intermediaries is never going to be integrated into the society it is supposed to serve. The simple human interaction between officers and the public is, in my opinion, where real policing should begin.

This does not mean that we should reject or ignore the benefits of modern communication tools. I would urge all readers to look into whether their local force has a similar system to Kent’s “My Community Voice”. I live in the jurisdiction of West Mercia Police and the system they run is called Neighbourhood Matters. I expect it operates in the same way as Kent’s system. I receive email alerts from named police officers in my local neighbourhood, and I can message them back directly without going through 101. 

It works. Recently I received an alert entitled “Stolen Motorbike”.  It said: “There is a black pit bike which is riding around the Horsefair and Springfield Park. It is being ridden by two males in balaclavas and it is suspected stolen. If you see this, know where it is being kept or know who is riding it then please let us know.”  Later that same day I received a further notification – “The motorbike which was riding around Horsefair and Springfield Park this afternoon has now been located and seized. It was stolen from an address on Stourport Road and was subsequently found hidden in a back garden. Thankyou everyone for your help and patience. The riders today have been identified and will be dealt with.”

Secure parking was also raised. Usefully Steve Mallett was able to explain the extensive work he and others have done in the region to get secure rails put in at many motorcycle parking bays. Usefully Steve had invited a member of Medway Council who (no doubt to deflect attention from the council) challenged the PCC to give the council some funds for more secure rails. This kind of wheeling and dealing in public is perfect – the PCC could hardly refuse in these circumstances. I have no doubt that Steve will be making sure that the funding promise and subsequent implementation commitment from Medway are honoured. If they are not, the council and PCC will have a hard time denying that the promises were made with over 100 witnesses and several cameras in the room.

At time of writing we have a similar meeting scheduled in Birmingham on 15th April, and more in the pipeline. Keep your eyes open for a meeting in your area.

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