Measuring forces on crime statistics alone ‘simplistic’

23 January 2015

New research into the demands on forces demonstrates ministers should not just judge police officers’ success on the rise or fall in crime statistics alone.

Steve White, chair, Police Federation of England and Wales, said a statistic in today’s College of Policing report that 83 per cent of calls to forces do not concern incidents of crime calls into question government claims that the police should just be measured on efforts to cut crime.

The College of Policing analysis shows the incoming and ongoing work of the police and suggests an increasing amount of police time is directed towards public protection work such as  managing high-risk offenders and protecting victims who are at risk and often vulnerable.

The report calculated what pressures a typical force on a typical day faced. It said that there would be one officer on duty for every 1,753 people living in the area; that officers would make 50 arrests – with 1.6 for sexual offences; and that officers would deal with – among other crimes – 8 house burglaries, 77 thefts, 11 thefts from a motor vehicle, three thefts from a motor vehicle, 36 violent crimes, one robbery, two sexual assaults including one rape.

It also showed that officers would attend nine road traffic collisions where there were casualties, carry out eight breath tests, carry out 37 stop and searches, deal with 14 incidents flagged as involving people with mental health problems, support 2,700 families in the troubled families programme, manage 1,189 sexual and violent offenders, deal with 101 anti-social behaviour issues among a host of other non-crime issues.

Mr White said: ‘What this research shows is that using recorded crime stats as a way to measure the police is one-dimensional and simplistic. The government’s argument - based on such a limited measure – that the police reform programme is working needs further and more sophisticated assessment. We need a wider debate around what the police do, particularly at a time of pressure on all public services.

‘The report is a start but does not give the full picture – what we need are year on year comparisons; currently all we’ve got are statistics from last year.’

The report follows yesterday’s publication by the Office for National Statistics of the annual crime statistics for the year up to September 2014.

Mr White added: ‘Countering terrorists who seek to attack our way of life; managing sex offenders in the community; preventing child sexual exploitation; looking for missing persons; dealing with people with mental health problems; policing football matches; policing pubs and clubs; house to house inquiries and taking statements are just some of the key areas of police work not covered in the crime statistics.

‘Today’s report shows that protecting the public is a growing area of policing work. Losing 16,000 police officers and 16,000 police staff members – equivalent to seven entire police forces - is having a dramatic effect on the service’s ability to combat this growing issue.’