Monday, 26 September 2011

Crime Detection Rates in Surrey

According to the official Home Office figures, detection rates for crime in Surrey fell this year, 2010/11, to an average of 20%. They have fallen year on year since 2006/7, and are now the (joint) lowest in England and Wales.

Some of this reflects previous cuts in police funding (by around 40% in real terms under Labour), although - even in the South East, similarly hit by Labour's arbitrary funding formula - Surrey has gone from having the highest to the lowest detection rates.

This strengthens the case for the government's police agenda - cutting red-tape, bureaucracy and getting more officers onto the frontline. It also highlights the case for local accountability through elected police commissioners, who will be held to account locally for tackling neighbourhood crime.

Responding to this data, Surrey Police pointed to surveys which show high public satisfaction with the job the police are doing, as reported in the Surrey Comet here. According to a senior officer: 'It is the public’s view of our service that matters to us'.

I have heard this viewpoint a number of times before, and it is worth considering it. Should a police force be benchmarked against the objective level of crime and law enforcement? Or is it more important that the public think they are doing a good job (irrespective of the crime statistics)? In my view, public confidence over the long-term is based on knowing the police are doing everything they can to keep crime as low as possible. Cutting crime should come first, the PR second. However, I think there has been a cultural shift in recent years, given the treatment of public services as customer services, to gauging performance through public satisfaction surveys.

In fairness, we should probably measure police performance using both benchmarks. However, with the forthcoming introduction of elected police commissioners, it is unlikely that any force would be quite so casual about declining detection rates in the future.


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