Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette December 5, 2003

A FEW weeks ago, the Hampshire Constabulary published its news sheet, Frontline Report, with the annual report of the Chief Constable, Paul Kernaghan, as its main subject.

In it, he gave details of how the local force has been fighting crime in this county over the past year, and its four pages reveal a mass of interesting facts and figures.

Within these, there are details of the key crimes which the police are having to deal with, the detection rate, and how many 999 calls are received each year, among other subjects.

It is hoped that these figures will make the public realise that the police have many tasks to carry out when on duty, and they are carried out as efficiently as possible.

In the Basingstoke sub-division, which not only includes the main town with its large shopping centre and many housing estates, but also the smaller areas of Tadley, Overton and Oakley, it has some 150,000 people living within its boundaries.

Over the past 15 years, the formation of Neighbourhood Watch schemes have helped the police to keep the crime figures down, while in rural areas, a Farm Watch scheme has also been established with the same results.

The present system of policing in this country began back in 1829, when Sir Robert Peel suggested such a scheme, and within a few years the “Peelers” or “Bobbies”, as they became known, were walking the streets of London with the intention of catching the crooks of that time.

In 1835, the Municipal Corporations Act was passed by Parliament, which allowed each of 178 boroughs to establish a watch committee to appoint a number of constables for keeping law and order in each town.

In 1839, a county force was established, so, in the case of Basingstoke, there were two police stations in the town. The borough police station was in the old town prison building in New Street, while the county station was set up in another building next to the Grapes Hotel in Wote Street.

In 1888, the Local Government Act led to the amalgamation of town stations with county ones, so the Hampshire Constabulary was brought into operation.

In Basingstoke, the county station was built in Mark Lane, off London Street, and the two older stations were closed down.

Unfortunately, the amalgamation had only been in operation for less than a year when the Superintendent of Police was found to be carrying out wrongful accounts in the office, and he was convicted and sentenced to penal servitude.

By the mid-1930s Basingstoke had a police force of 32 men, consisting of one superintendent, one inspector, two sergeants and 28 constables, all for a town with a population of about 14,000.

By comparison, by 1993, the force had increased to 143 officers and 30 civilians.

In 1967, due to the Town Development Scheme increasing the population and the need to expand the police station, the Mark Lane station was closed down after a new and much larger headquarters was built in London Road.

In June 2000, this station was partly demolished and rebuilt with more modern facilities to cope with the future needs of the police force in the town.

Police officers have been trained at Bramshill College in Hampshire for some 40 years, and it is there where the essential need to protect the public from crime is instilled into the trainees.

Looking back 50 years to an instruction book when the police were trained at Hendon, it is interesting to note the following quote: “the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime, the next, that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed” and these words still stand to this day.