Police criticised for asking public to choose which village to patrol via Twitter poll

Helena Horton
wiltshire police

A local police force has been criticised for asking the public to vote on which village they should patrol by using a poll on Twitter.

Wiltshire Police force has been accused of signposting where criminals should target after announcing on social media that it would send officers to patrol one of three villages.

It posted: "Which village would you like us to patrol later today?", giving the options of Aldbourne, Great Bedwyn and Worton.

The village Great Bedwyn was picked as the winner. The force wrote: "Great Bedwyn got the vote! Quick pit stop to refuel and we’ll head there!"

The Twitter account posted pictures from the village, writing:  "As promised, a foot patrol of Great Bedwyn! Had a chat to some residents and bumped into Daisy the dog."

Followers of the account were quick to criticise, with Steve Johnson incredulously writing: "Wow a poll to see where to patrol ? What next a lucky dip to see who to arrest!"

Another, Matty, wrote: "So the criminals will be hitting Worton and Aldbourne later then."

Follower Gary Lawrence asked:"Is this a joke? If it is it’s not very funny @wiltshirepolice If it’s serious you need to think about the message it sends out. What next, a poll on what crimes to investigate or suspects to charge?"

The force replied: "Not meant as a joke. We continually patrol rural areas. We are promoting our work and engaging with the communities."

Mr Lawrence said in response: "It's commendable but how do people who don't use social media get a say? Who decides which areas go on the poll? What happens in the places that don't win the vote?"

Chief constable Kier Pritchard said: "We patrol areas based on intelligence, likely risk and threat and where we can do our level best to reassure the public and prevent crime. This tweet was just part of raising awareness that we have to make choices and involve the public, we can’t be everywhere."

Many pointed to budget cuts as a reason for police having to ask the public where to patrol.

Cuts to police budgets that have led to a reduction of 20,000 officers since 2010.

Dave Thompson, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Finance and Resources, said earlier this year that “budget cuts and a hands-off Government approach to aspects of policing” mean the public’s experience is of a “less visible, less responsive and less proactive” force.