Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Election Issue 3: Law Enforcement

Despite cuts in the budgets of local police forces and prosecution services, crime has steadily fallen – locally and across the country. Between 2010 and 2014, police recorded crime fell by 14% in England and Wales. In Surrey, despite a 7% cut in our police budget, crime fell by 25% - and by 28% locally here in Elmbridge. County-wide, the biggest falls have been in robbery, criminal damage, motoring offences, and public order offences.
Interestingly, the overall volume of convictions has also fallen in England and Wales, and in Surrey. True, there are some important exceptions. The volume of cases brought against violent and sexual offenders is up across the county (compared to a 26% fall in prosecutions for vehicle offences). Equally, the number of reported drug offences rose by 37% in Surrey, but fell 16% across the country.
So, what conclusions can be drawn from this data? First, there is no hydraulic relationship between the crude amount of policing budgets and the level of crime. This reinforces what we know about both the effectiveness of policing, and the public’s role. Burglar alarms, personal security and other IT has been a major factor in cutting crime – as well as the dedication of frontline officers.
Second, given the cost of bringing cases to court, hard-pressed taxpayers’ money needs to be focused and prioritised. I suspect many people would endorse the prosecutorial focus on violent and sexual crime. Equally, signage, speed controls and other preventative measures have helped reduced motoring offences – while less cases are going to court.
Third, there is no reason why crime cannot continue to fall. Police money and time can be further saved by increasing co-operation between the different emergency services, and between local police forces. For example, Surrey recently won £735,000 from the police innovation fund, to develop a shared IT platform with fire and rescue. Then there is all the centrally imposed bureaucracy and red-tape – there’s still scope for further efficiencies to be found here too.
A combination of smart policing and greater personal responsibility has achieved significant results – locally and nationally – at a time of financial pressure on public services. This has made residents safer in Elmbridge, and punctured the myth that the secret to lower crime is simply funnelling more and more taxpayers’ money into policing budgets.


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