Policing a pandemic: Policy Exchange | News

Policing a pandemic: Policy Exchange

By Alistair McIntosh, HQN CEO

Sound practical advice that would be better without the political game playing

True to form, this influential right-wing think tank is at it again. They’re telling us that the government saw it all coming. It turns out that ministers are implementing the UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy from 2011 and the Operating Framework for Managing the Response to Pandemic Influenza from 2017. Pull the other one. Matt Hancock had a very difficult time spinning that line to Piers Morgan today. As many of you’ll know, the government was telling us all it was business as usual till 10 days ago. But that’s a discussion for another day. Policing a Pandemic is a checklist of issues to watch out for. So, it’s well worth a read. Here are some of the highlights.

It’s time for us all to stay at home. That’s what officials are telling us to do. But Policy Exchange says that’ll lead to an increase in domestic abuse. Well, they’re correct. I’m hearing of 20% hikes in calls to helplines.

What will the police be doing? Let’s hope they do take these cases seriously. But they’ll have less time to do the day job as they start to enforce lockdowns. So, the chances are that criminals will be able to get up to all sorts. The police may only be able to investigate murders and the most serious assaults. Will street gangs be able to operate with impunity?  

And crime will change. It’s tricky to break into a home with people in it so we will see more distraction burglaries and cybercrime? How many of you have had those calls from bogus HMRC people demanding payment? In fact, there’s been so many of these you wonder if anyone will ever believe it actually is HMRC again.

Like the rest of us, Policy Exchange worry about how food banks can still run and how you keep the homeless healthy. Of course they’re concerned about isolation’s impact on mental health. Let’s face it, this type of working from home isn’t what any transformation programme has in mind. This isn’t hotdesking in cafes, drinking lattes with peers – it’s solitary confinement. And even with Netflix, Amazon etc. you pretty quickly run out of things to watch. After all, there are only seven seasons of Orange is the New Black. So, you’ll exhaust that in day one.

On the bright side, Policy Exchange quotes from the Chief Medical Officer who says that it “...is very clear from behavioural science that the response - and this is a scientific, not a general, point - of the British public to disasters and emergencies is extraordinary outbreaks of altruism”.

The question then is how can we help them? Well, every landlord has many ways of communicating with residents. Can we use these? Are we getting out the message on cybercrime and domestic abuse? When we do visit estates, are we keeping a sharp look out for trouble? Are we getting rid of bulk rubbish and anything else that can catch on fire? How clean are our hard surfaces?

Last but not least, desperate people can turn to crime. Do your residents know that their landlord will help them with rents and service charges during this crisis? You need to watch residents’ cash flow as closely as you do your own. Many of them will be worried sick. Let’s not make it harder than it already is.