Call-outs to police must be curbed
Leicestershire Police, like other forces across the country, is facing severe financial cutbacks as a result of the Government's drive to reduce public spending. It has therefore never been more important to ensure that every penny is well spent.
So, the news that a considerable amount of time and money is having to be devoted to dealing with repeated missing persons alerts over a small group of children in local authority care is clearly of concern.
One must bear in mind, of course, that these are vulnerable children and every effort must be made to safeguard their welfare.
However, when the same child is going missing dozens of times it seems unlikely that these are all situations in which their safety is at risk but a pattern of behaviour which perhaps needs to be dealt with in a different way than calling out the police.
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One officer has told the Mercury: "What is annoying is finding a child who's been missing scores of times from a home has, again, been found at his mate's house because he wanted to borrow some DVDs or has just gone for a wander into town."
Given that a typical, short-term missing person case costs the police force about £2,400, this is an expensive way of fetching back a child from his friend's house.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Sharp, head of the force's safeguarding team, has called on local councils to tighten up procedures at their children's homes.
Leicestershire County Council has said it will work with the police to reduce the number of children in its care who go missing.
Leicester City Council assistant mayor Vi Dempster, who is responsible for children, young people and schools, has said that the authority already has "very good protocols in place" but adds "clearly there is more work to be done".
We agree. This problem does need to be addressed.
We do not underestimate the complexities of looking after children in care and the pressures on staff, however, there must be a more effective way of dealing with this issue that does not lead to so many police call-outs.