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.