Police football tactics gaining support as arrest numbers fall
16 August 2012
WEST Midlands Police’s specialist football unit is warmed-up for the new season kick-off this weekend – and confident its tactics will prove popular with fans and help further cut match-day trouble.
There’s been no pre-season break for the team’s officers as work continues behind the scenes with the region’s six professional clubs to fine tune policing strategy and gather intelligence on problem supporters.
Last season there were less than 250 arrests of Aston Villa, Wolves, West Brom, Birmingham, Coventry and Walsall supporters collectively at all matches both home and away – down from 344 during the previous campaign.
And there were only 82 ‘home club’ arrests in total at their West Midlands grounds last season – just a tiny fraction of the 2,000,000-plus combined attendances.
Superintendent Steve Graham says the falling arrest numbers have coincided with a sea-change in the way the force polices football events and closer working relations with supporter groups.
He said: “In the past there has perhaps been a default position of adopting a public order style approach to policing football matches – which I guess stems from the darker days of football hooliganism.
“Last season, though, we really focused on delivering a friendly, engaging and reassuring police presence which allows genuine football supporters to enjoy their day out watching matches.
“All officers are encouraged to engage positively with fans. Our policing style is based on the skills officers display every day in communities; just because we’re interacting with football fans doesn’t suddenly mean we should adopt a public order policing approach.
“The vast majority of people attending matches are there to enjoy the opportunity of supporting their team. There may be a few who wish to display their ‘support’ through anti-social or criminal activity – but it’s important we don’t allow the approach that we would use for the anti-social group to cause us to treat the overwhelming majority in any way other than we would do in our everyday policing.”
West Midlands Police’s Football Unit has officers assigned to each regional club.
Known as ‘Spotters’ – and easily recognisable in their blue and yellow jackets – they attend all games both home and away to advise fans on parking, stadium lay-out, transport to the ground or to answer any questions.
They also work closely with security staff and club officials to identify and monitor ‘risk’ supporters – and push for Football Banning Orders against anyone involved in football related crime or anti-social behaviour.
Sergeant Donna Jones from the football unit, added: “There has been a switch in policing style…but that doesn’t mean we’re soft on offenders. Football-related disorder and violence will not be tolerated and offenders will be dealt with strongly.
“There are more than 200 people in the West Midlands who are subject to Banning Orders which prevent them from attending matches or from travelling abroad to England games for up to 10 years.
“We know they work because the level of crime and disorder associated with the game has continued to fall – we’re determined that trend will continue so genuine fans can enjoy the game in a safe, friendly environment.”
Football fans can receive important match-day information on their club by following the police West Midlands Police’s ‘Spotters’ on Twitter.
They are @WMPVillaFC, @WMPBCFC, @WMPCovFC, @WMPWalsallFC , @WMPAlbionFC and @WMPWolvesFC.
Click here to join our facebook page
Wolverhampton's Policing Plan
Click here to see all the Wolverhampton Police Twitter feeds
Click here for info on how to register your property
Find out how to avoid becoming a victim of vehicle crime
How do you rate your local police? Share your thoughts here.
Find out about crime levels in your neighbourhood
- police.uk (external site)