The government say they are ‘empowering’ the people (again) by providing them with information. Data that allows them to make informed decisions and/or hold public agencies to account (apparently), when something is wrong or they have failed in some way.
Many people (me included) have already had problems gaining access to the new government Crime Mapping Website at www.police.uk. apparently this is due to “heavy use” and the government weren’t prepared for the level of site traffic (unsurprisingly).
Street level crime maps launched: New online crime maps for England and Wales have been launched, allowing users to see which offences have been reported in their local streets. Home Secretary Theresa May said the maps would give real facts and make police more accountable. (BBC News)
It remains to be seen if this “heavy use” is simply idle interest for something new or a tool that will actually be of use to the public in the future. If they do find it useful, the question begs to be asked; to what use will it actually be put? I feel sure that a large proportion of those initial 75,000 ‘hits’ per minute will tail off very quickly and, most of the current ‘users’ will be journalists, social commentators, pundits and cynics who are just pulling it to bits maybe? There will be those who attempt to use it in the spirit it was intended however, as with all statistical data it is open to debate and interpretation (see previous post).
It is a well-known and well researched fact that; recorded crime figures, both in the UK and further afield, have very little correlation with actual crime levels. In the 2nd part of his comprehensive series on crime statistics entitled Crime is down – Or is it? The author of the Thin Blue Line Blog adds further to the debate about the actual ‘value’ of our published crime statistics and, the almost criminal manipulation of the base data by politicians and senior police officers…
Over recent years, every Tom, Dick and Harry involved in the compilation, manipulation and obfuscation of crime statistics have thrown their hats and helmets in the air to celebrate a steady fall in crime. The Home Office boasted it was… (Read more)
When we get past our Chief Constables or Government Ministers ‘cooking the books’ and ‘spinning’ the results for personal gain, just sometimes they are actually held to account for their failings. It happens very infrequently but when it does, some abdicate responsibility as quick as possible and some actually hold up their hands, protest their innocence and vow they “will learn the lessons”…
Judgement on the facts would be fine – if we ever got them: …What we get instead of open public scrutiny, is “promises” – promises to learn lessons and all the other lying jive of 10-day MBA-speak that should lead to instant dismissal not promotion… (Read more)
Interesting that many local authorities and police forces have been quick to issue press releases to placate and pacify the public. They obviously felt a need for some quickly
invented valid reasons as to why crime in a particular area of their borough looks so bad. Irrespective of the base data validity and whether the local council or police are responsible for the crime rate; there are also concerns about the level of data published and how it relates to personal issues and information…
One of the unfortunate side effects of crime data is; police managers tend to use it to, more or less exclusively, direct the limited proactive/reactive police resources. If you live in an urban area, you are more likely to see a uniformed police presence than you would if you live in a rural one, with less ‘recorded’ crime. This methodology almost prevents any application of the tried and tested ‘Peelian Principle’; “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it” i.e. ‘prevention is better than cure’, a factor highlighted by one of the most prolific and well read police bloggers.
Insp. Gadget: I predict a rapid withdrawal of the few police officers and PCSO’s that still exist, from the areas where no crimes are shown, to the areas where a large amount of crime is shown. Yet again, the criminal underclass who report each other for spurious or vengeful petty nonsense on a daily basis will receive all the public services, while the silent majority who pay for it all will get none. (Read more)
The government say they are simply providing a “tool” that will “empower” the people to take ”informed” action when “holding the police to account”. They also expect the public reaction to the crime mapping project to be “positive” and denied the information could increase fear or drive down house prices in some areas.
There is a saying that goes; “Information is power” but, when that information is basically flawed and open to misinterpretation, is it really anything more than another expensive PR gimmick?
- Online crime maps ‘putting power in the hands of people’ (guardian.co.uk)
- UK “crime maps” launched online (bbc.co.uk)
- You: Online crime maps for all streets (guardian.co.uk)
- Millions clog crime map website (bbc.co.uk)
- House prices could be hit by crime maps (telegraph.co.uk)
- Britain’s most crime-ridden streets revealed by police map (telegraph.co.uk)
One of the control rooms which handles 999 calls at North Yorkshire Police could be closed as part of cost-cutting measures, it has been confirmed (BBC News). The force said any decision would be based on “maximising efficiency” while continuing “a high-level of service”.
I suppose it depends what you mean by ‘efficiency’ or ‘service’ and, what they mean by ‘maximising’? It may suggest to some that things are good and will get better? Perhaps it’s more sensible to read it as; “We’re trying to do the best we can with limited resources and finances, we know it’s not as good as it should (or could) but it’s the best you’re going to get.”
Delivering his keynote speech to the CityForum policing strategy round table in London this week, the policing minister Nick Herbert suggested that (where appropriate); private firms should take over the running of police custody suites and control rooms to save money…
“Because what matters to the public is the front line. The police officer who is there for them, patrolling the street, responding to a 999 call or investigating a crime.” (Nick Herbert MP)
You can agree or disagree with the politics of the ConDem clan but Mr Herbert is talking a lot of sense (see full transcript of speech). For many years there has been a massive national overspend, much of it unnecessary and largely mismanaged. The cash cow has finally succumbed under the weight of waste and gravy consumption. The forthcoming demise in policing and many other areas of public service may be the direct result of imposed financial limitation but something had to give.
However, we mustn’t assume government austerity measures are the panacea or cure-all potion for our public sector malaise. We’re simply applying a sticking plaster to the wound in an attempt to stem the erstwhile catastrophic flow of blood. The wound may heal in the short-term however, a massive course of antibiotics are also required to treat the almost malignant infection that will still exist. The greater underlying problem, and one which is a far more intrusive ailment in the process is, the short-sighted, self-perpetuating and self-promotional management which is still endemic in the system.
As many skilled, devoted and very able people inthe control rooms face the job centre, police officers will also be contemplating carrying on their (often dangerous) work with the freshly imported telesales clerk at the other end of the radio. Members of the public across the County will be sat on the phone listening to a recorded message; “North Yorkshire Police values your call, we are committed to blah, blah, blah, press 1 for… Press 2 for… Etc.”
And the senior officers? Business as usual I expect; sat in the golf club bar flicking through magazines over a Pimms. ”Thinking; shall I book another Caribbean cruise, replace the conservatory or order a new Mercedes, I’d like a red one this time. What the hell, let’s have the lot my bonus is due.” Always assuming they keep the PR spinners safe from redundancy and avoid any allegations of misconduct that is?
MrG note: Any implied reference to any particular individual is purely incidental and an observation made simply to illustrate a point however, should the cap fit you are more than welcome to wear it.
I used to be sceptical almost anti about the devolutionary process. I used to think that the strength of our nation was in its unity, I believed there was something great and good in the values of a United Kingdom. My thoughts are changing…
The more I read about the political and financial differences developing between England and our Gaelic cousins in Scotland, the more I see some of the sense in their aims. I can fully understand why so many of my friends have headed North of the Border for their retirement. It would appear that (so far) the tartan health care and education systems are both set to be more available to all than ours. House prices appear more sensible or realistic and the on top of all that, the scenery is amazing. The final clincher has just been announced; it seems the Scottish have now also got a handle on correctly sorting out the financial problems blighting the police service.
BBC News: Alex Salmond is expected to stress that “bobbies not boundaries” are his priority. The first minister is expected to tell the SNP conference that the current structure of eight forces is not sustainable. (Read more)
South of the border in England and Wales, we are continuously informed by politicians and the media that; police force amalgamation and/or regionalisation is ‘not acceptable to the public’.
May 2006: “It’s clear that the public strongly oppose police force mergers. People want policing to be local, responsive and accountable. The new Home Secretary should get his priorities right and drop this costly, unnecessary, unwanted and distracting reorganisation.” (Policing Minister – Nick Herbert MP)
If there really is so much public opposition to regionalisation in England & Wales, why does it appear a little more palatable in Scotland? Could it simply be their politicians are adopting a Scotland the brave stance and grasping the thistle or, perhaps they’re not so dependant upon public opinion as English ones?
The lack of public support in England and Wales for mergers has been fuelled by ACPO and local political self-interests. Any amalgamation or regionalisation would obviously entail loss of ACPO posts, never mind the decline in police authority posts for local politicians… Turkey’s don’t vote for Christmas! Back in July this year my local newspaper ran an editorial comment which suggested that public opinion is changing.
Locally accountable and accessible police officers are what people want. What emblem they wear on their helmets is neither here nor there. (D&S Times)
As Scotland only has eight police forces, it wouldn’t require much to create a national force, obviously the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) would be desimated however, would that be such a bad thing? If amalgamations do go ahead in Scotland, surley it can’t be long before the the politicians south of the border develop the backbone of their Gaelic peers, can it?
What’s the betting police chiefs in England and Wales are sweating a bit whilst awaiting the outcome in Scotland… Hopefully!
Sassenach – a word used chiefly by the Scots to designate an Englishman. It derives from the Scottish Gaelic Sasunnach meaning, originally, “Saxon”, from the Latin “Saxones”; it was also formerly applied by Highlanders to (non-Gaelic-speaking) Lowlanders. As employed by Scots or Scottish Englishspeakers today it is usually used in jest, as a (friendly) term of abuse. The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1771 as the date of the earliest written use of the word in English. (Wikipedia)
- Full independence will save Scotland from worst of cuts, says Alex Salmond (guardian.co.uk)
- Salmond puts SNP second term case (bbc.co.uk)
- Police will catch more criminals with smaller budgets and fewer officers, says Nick Herbert (telegraph.co.uk)
- The thinner blue line – police warning over 25% budget cut (guardian.co.uk)
- Police forces facing ‘deep cuts’ to number of frontline officers (guardian.co.uk)