Turn the clocks back 70 years and the police in Leeds had access to a total of 10 vehicles.
Considering the amount of traffic on the roads at that time, it probably wasn’t a bad ratio. However, in October 1947, Leeds Police force had that number doubled to 20.
Chief Constable J W Barnett was in no doubt about the effectiveness of the new squad cars. It meant that eight radio controlled cars could not patrol the city at any one time, each of them ready to be directed by an operator responding to a 999 call. Incidentally, the 999 system was introduced in 1935 in London but did not spread to other parts of the UK until the Second World War.
In the first 19 days since introduction of the new cars, the force dealt with 380 calls, which led to 23 arrests. One call from a factory found to have been entered resulted in the response of 12 vehicles within eight minutes. Three men were arrested. The chief constable said: “We welcome the assistance which the public have given recently on the 999 system. We hope they won’t weary of well-doing. We hope, too, that far more people will realise it is entirely in their own interest that they should get in touch with the police not only to report crime but also wilful damage to private property.”
The success of the 999 system was said to be increasing. For instance, on one Saturday night in October, 20 calls were received within three hours. The calls ranged from people with lost children to suspected intruders being in houses. The chief constable added: “Leeds needs more night watchmen. There are a lot of premises where [they] could be profitably employed and we can always arrange for the man on the beat to know where and when to contact them.”
Shop owners were also urged to make sure windows were secure.