David Green, 23 September 2004
The police performance figures show that only 18.8% of offences were detected and sanctioned in 2003-04, slightly fewer than last year. Consequently, public confidence in the police remains below the half-way mark, with only 47.7% believing that the police do a good or excellent job. And yet many chief constables are complacent, regularly complaining that the real problem they face is exaggerated public fear of crime.
We can make some rudimentary comparisons with other countries. In England and Wales we have 241 police officers for every 100,000 population. In America, there are only 230 police officers for every 100,000. How do crime rates compare? In 2001 the USA suffered from 4,157 crimes per 100,000 population. The figure in England and Wales was more than double, at 10,608 crimes per 100,000. Perhaps the American police are getting something right.
How do we compare with countries closer to home? Germany has 289 police offers per 100,000 population, nearly 20% more. Its crime rate is 7,734 per 100,000 population, about 37% lower.
The French spend a great deal more on policing, with 381 police officers for every 100,000 population, 58% more. But they have a much lower crime rate, 6,879 crimes for every 100,000 population, 35% lower than the rate for England and Wales.
The number of police officers per head of population, and the efficiency of the police force, are far from being the only influences on the crime rate. Social factors, such as family breakdown, and the moral messages conveyed by leading opinion formers play a huge part, along with the effectiveness of the courts and the prison and probation services. But, while the police only detect one in every five recorded crimes, we will continue to suffer from more crime than other comparable countries.
For a fuller discussion take a look at The Failure of Britain’s Police by Norman Dennis.