Sad ‘News’ On Police Numbers – But Be Wary

We have news today of substantial reductions in police numbers.  I believe our police are inefficient and often fail the people they should be protecting, but I don’t welcome any of this cutting – much as predicted by thinblueline long ago.  In the weird way economics works we can’t ‘afford’ any of the public sector cuts.  The cuts can be found in a link above on ‘austerity’ and the research the claim that a 10% reduction will lead to a 3% increase in crime in the other link.  What was actually said in that research follows:

3. The weight of evidence is strengthened by the fact that the extant studies use a
variety of methods. However the causal claims made by many of them are
somewhat doubtful, and care should be taken when interpreting the results.
4. Most of these recent studies converge on two key findings:
a. Higher levels of police are linked to lower levels of property crime.
Evidence for an association between police numbers and violent crime is
b. A summary of existing studies would put the elasticity of property crime
in relation to police numbers at approximately -0.3 – that is, a 10 per cent
increase in officers will lead to a reduction in crime of around 3 per cent
(and vice versa). ‘Conclusion’ at this stage is a misnomer. Despite the apparent consistency of recent research it is too early to say, for all the reasons given above, that there is a direct causal link between higher numbers of police and lower crime. Considerably more work would need to be done before such a claim could be made. In particular, more work is needed on the difference in the (potential) effect of specific, large-scale changes in deployment patterns due to terrorist attacks and other shocks, and that of general numbers of police or arrest rates averaged across a large number of areas. A related task is to locate the boundary between marginal changes in numbers – which go unnoticed – and gross changes – which can have a marked impact on crime. What seems fair to say, however,is that there is relatively strong evidence for the potential of an effect of police numbers on crime, particularly with regard to property and other acquisitive forms of offending.

In plainer words, we don’t know the links between police numbers and crime.

Many people have become fed-up with our public services generally and we hear a great deal about how much better they would be in the hands of the much more efficient private sector.  This is that private sector that sends jobs abroad, ‘pays’ a few people fortunes and turns out to have been involved in all kinds of excess and inefficiency the tax payer has had to fund and hasn’t finished funding.

We need more police not less and there is a labour force with nothing else to do waiting to do the job.  “Economics” means we can’t go down this route.  Police inefficiency is due to factors across the CJS and our society generally – yet the ‘only means’ to fix this is to sack a load of people – most trying their best.

The idea of a link between police numbers and crime is silly.  Roughly speaking, British Leyland might have needed 60 workers to produce one car and a modern plant 6 – yet the new plant has all kinds on innovation and investment.  Copperfield has made this point in comparing his jobs here and in Canada.  There are clearly likely to be many links between police numbers, investment, system improvements and social conditions and crime.

Factories wiped out people and yet increased production – but this was nearly always because of new machines and improved business processes.  Whilst I believe we need radical economic solutions to much wider problems, police staff could have been offered other solutions, such as wage cuts and salary caps to cope with the cuts.

The real issues of crime and policing it remain unaddressed.  In terms of increases in crime, the collapse of world economics is likely to be a bigger factor than any redundancies in police staff.  It is doubtful that police really prevent crime as many anti-social crime incidents merely repeat because the intervention of agencies is so useless anyway.  Doubling or halving useless action is not likely to lead to change.  If police could attend Pilkington-like incidents and stop them more officers would not be needed – as they can’t stop the jerks involved prevention would entail vast presence and number increase to prevent by presence.

This kind of sacking to make cuts is stupid in a world in which the private sector cannot take up the slack.  Apart from anything else, those officers left in post will be over-paid against the norms now – the salary cap and pay cut route presents much more value for the tax payer and for the poor sods who lose their jobs and probably for those left with increasing demand.


11 thoughts on “Sad ‘News’ On Police Numbers – But Be Wary

  1. Back in the early 90’s the Tory Gov’t of the day stated that having ‘bobbies’ (think we got out of that model in about 1986) on the beat does nothing to prevent crime, so had us trying to race to respond in set time scales. then they tried to screw us with Sheehey (spelling?) but backed down.
    Now they are throwing everything at us and doing a good job of hoodwinking the public. Now they suggest that these cuts will not affect front line service….
    I also think that police numbers may not necessarily correlate to crime reduction but they do allow us to get to more, and attempt to deal with it within the system and importantly deal with issues that are not police related because no one else will.
    Time for CC’s to stand up and start saying ‘ No we don’t do that any more it’s not a police matter and not within our remit’, but they won’t they will just do as the Home Office diktat requires.
    We are about to be radically reamed, brace yourselves.

  2. I always read your blog – sometimes I think you are right, occasionally I think you are wrong, and even more occasionally I think you were right but might have the Police of 15 years ago in mind. That being said, this is one of the best pieces I have seen you, or indeed any of the police bloggers, write. I may disagree on Pilkington being a particularly sound example to hang your focus on, but the point you generally make is nether the less correct. The Police have been spread too thinly, without any thought to what they need to tackle, in what order, and more importantly without assessing what works. Less time (and money) spent on absurd PR representation and chief executive budgets and more emphasis on public-facing, crime prevention and life-saving duties wouuld (and should) have been their goal. Instinctively, I resist the call for outside managers to be brought into the ACPO jobs, but then I ask myself…could they feasibly do it any worse ?

    • I’m not sure I’d want to replace the ACPOs – I’d just sack them. There’s plenty of talent in the ‘other ranks’ with the necessary local knowledge. Without the books I can only guess at savings from removing LOMBARDS (lots of money but are right dicks) – my general guess is to triple the salary bill if you bring in cost caps for the replacements. The real point for me would be the fresh air.

  3. Totally agree. I do have sympathy with any politician who tries to break the simple ‘more cops better’ mantra of the last few years. (Which has led to more bodies in uniform but insufficient supporting infrastructure) But just cutting numbers and hoping the police service will somehow magically improve and become more efficient is just deluded…

    • I think they might be relying on more than Sooty’s magic wand – and start to bend the stats to their ends even more. My guess is that a lot of crime is being hidden – with minor category changes the same crimes are being recorded now as when I was plodding (30 years ago) – surely the job has changed inside out since then? Where is the ‘new’ crime in any of the stats? I know the IQ of a gross of prisoners is 144, but even they change habits.

  4. Actually among my service, voluntary redundancy requests have exceeded expectations and not everyone will be able to take it up. Over 20% of the IT dept (DoI) headcount is going

  5. I took VR and walked into another job years ago. There were always more willing to go than numbers needed to cut but the job (academic teaching) went down the drain. I think telling people their complaints aren’t in the police remit has been tried. This amounts to saying you can’t do the job and that might be what this lot wants.

  6. They generally keep cutting according to your teaching Aco, and piling more and more work on those at the bottom who can’t resist it. So the answer will be a wider-based Response if I follow? The work will be foisted on this unit which will have to find ways to make it seem to be done?

  7. My general point is these are not just police matters. We seem to go out of our way in Britain to elevate stupidity. The public sector is a much better provider of the services we need than the private sector – but instead of looking to facts we prefer religious nonsense put about by a wealthy few. To get their economy with reasonably full employment, German governments have kept the Euro low and pumped up borrowing in the sucker-kleptocfracies (Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain), whilst restricting spending in Germany – but most of us are too thick even to be interested. Tanks may not roll out in a Blitzkrieg this time, but this is war by other means. Note that ‘someone’ wants to buy up such public services as the lotteries cheap and other points they can erect tollbooths on like ports and stuff like gold reserves. It’s a form of looting that’s going on. This is all connected to not being able to afford police officers, hospitals and so on.

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