Four-legged officers have proven to be a great tool in improving the public face of policing, Britain’s Avon and Somerset Constabulary says.
A summer trial of mounted patrols by the regional police force may not have produced a raft of arrests, but it is being hailed as a great success.
The constabulary launched the trial to assess whether police horses could help to tackle anti-social behaviour during the summer holidays.
The operation has so far seen Avon and Somerset police horses patrolling for more than 350 hours in Southmead, Bridgwater and Hartcliffe.
The neighbourhoods were selected as pilot areas for the campaign and it is hoped the horses will continue this work in different areas next year.
Mounted Section Sergeant Kerry Williams said: “The patrols have gone really well, but the most important thing to come out of this campaign has been the increase in public reassurance and the increased approachability of the police in these areas.
“People seem to warm to the horses and feel more comfortable speaking to us which can only be a good thing.”
Mounted officers have made four arrests for anti-social behaviour and an officer also issued a £90 disorder notice. Arrests were also made for other offences.
A high number of stop checks have also been carried out and reports have been submitted which will form part of anti-social behaviour order applications.
Neighbourhood Inspector for Southmead Mark Runacres said: “I was at an event at the Southmead Youth Centre recently and had the opportunity to catch up with numerous local residents.
“There was clear and strong support of the mounted patrols and lots of comments were made as to how the increased visibility has helped to make residents feel safer.”
Community worker Pauline Teddy MBE said: “The patrols have been really popular with residents especially the older generation and families with young children.”
Anti-social behaviour can affect all communities and is a key priority for Avon and Somerset Police and other agencies.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mounstevens has been out with the mounted unit over the summer holidays and heard first-hand how the initiative is going in Southmead.
“The police horses always attract big crowds and they definitely allow the police to engage with lots of people who might not usually want to approach them.
“Many people only associate the police horses with Bristol or with football matches so I am keen to hear from people in the pilot areas for their views.
“Anti-social behaviour is a key priority for me and the police and I am keen to hear if this initiative has made a difference or increased their sense of safety for residents and young people.”
Police horses can also be used to help search for missing people by covering large areas of ground and they are also excellent in public order situations and large scale events such as football matches.
The Avon and Somerset four-legged recruits live at Bower Ashton near Bristol where they are put through a rigorous training course to establish if they have the correct temperament for a police career.