One of my photos

Sussex Police Authority

October 12th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 4 Comments · Life

Jayne and I went along to K2 for the six-monthly public meeting of the Sussex Police Authority.

After the chaos and disorder of last week’s constituency meeting, where I believe I offered several people “outside” at one point, it was relaxing to go to a relatively calm meeting. Of course, the presence of 3 or 4 senior policemen does tend to make it less likely to end up as a brawl.

I’m not sure how well they are doing at reaching out to the public though. Of the 15 or 16 members of the public about half were faces from previous meetings or from similar events, but we all know how hard it is to attract anyone to public meetings unless they are very specifically affected by something, and even harder if it is on while England are being humiliated by Croatia.

What disheartens me a bit is hearing all the positive things the top cop has to say. They are always talking about their progress and their plans, but it always seems like the top man is a different one at each meeting. When they talk about what they plan to do next year I can’t help thinking that they are more likely to have been transferred out long before then and replaced by a new broom who changes everything to make an impact.

Of course a senior officer has to do what he can for his career and they will take the opportunities when they can, but it would be interesting to see what would happen if we had a District Commander or Chief Constable, or both, who stayed around for 4 or 5 years.

There was the usual bombardment of statistics. For most (all?) types of crime the reported levels are down and the detection rate is up on last year. It could just be that last year was terrible, but it looks like a good thing.

The thought-provoking part of the evening was the results of a recent crime survey, showing the effects of crime. There was a list of types of crime, with the percentages who had experienced, or seen such a crime. On the more serious crimes (violent assault, burglary, etc.) at least 85% said no they had never seen or been directly affected by them. At the lower end (disturbances etc.) about 45% said they had never experienced them at all. Given the amount of ‘fear of crime’ I was a little surprised that so many people had no experience of this at all – but if you do hang around at this sort of meeting you do only get to meet those with a problem: the audience is hardly representative.

Now for the irony. When it comes to detection rates, the more serious crimes have higher detection rates, but the lower level ones, which could be grouped together as antisocial behaviour, the ones more members of the public have experience of, are the ones with the lowest detection rate. It makes sense, but does explain the general dis-satisfaction with the police.

The police, of course, cannot win. Its the anti-social behaviour which generates most calls and which most people complain about, but if they dealt with it a lot better and let the detection rates for burglary and assault slip they would be accused of having their priorities wrong.

In the same way, there is a lot of unhappiness across the county with road policing – speeding in villages and housing estates, parking in bus stops and handicap spaces, and so on – but although it is one of the top concerns of the public, the police are always harrassed by the small but well-organised and vocal road lobby if they take any action. I think we have all seen letters in our local papers about why are the police harrassing innocent motorists when there are rapists at large.

As it stands it looks like you have about a 1-in-3 chance of being caught if you commit a crime in Sussex. Is that sufficient disincentive? I know it is for me! For assault the chances of being caught are about 50/50, but for burglary the chances are about 1-in-5.

Before the meeting we took the opportunity to ask the Inspector about all the activity up here a couple of weeks ago. He seemed very vague. Coy might be a better word. Certainly he didn’t say anything specific about why the majority of the on-duty police were in one small area at the same time.

One interesting little fact though: so far 1000 motorists have been issued fixed penalties in the county for using a mobile phone while driving. General opinion is that nobody ever gets caught and so there is no risk to it, but apparently that is not the case. Pass the word around…

The biggest surprise was that there was not a single mention of travellers in the entire meeting, which is very unusual for a police meeting. The least surprising comment from the audience was a Tory councillor who tried to turn a comment about the police getting exercise from their bicycles into a dig about the configuration of hospital services in the town. I think he said it was an attempt at humour. The meeting was held in the new leisure centre so thats as good an excuse as any to try kicking a political football around.

I expect many of the topics raised tonight will also crop up at the next Broadfield Forum (2nd November) and if the last one is anything to go by the turnout from the public should be a lot higher.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • snowflake5

    If you come across someone complaining about road policing, ask them if they are in favour of Zero Tolerance. Because that’s what clamping down on the little things is. Then spout impressive stats on how zero tolerance reduced crime in New York (which you can crib from Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point), and mention Rudolph Guiliani in the conversation.

    The type of people who complain about speed traps also profess themselves in favour of zero tolerance…. I think they mean zero tolerance to other people!

  • Skuds

    The zero tolerance thing in NY which Gladwell quoted was caled the ‘broken windows’ theory, which I have written about before.

    Quite apart from that, there is a proven correlation between speeding and illegal parking and other offences insofar as those who, for example, have no insurance or an unsafe vehicle, are more likely to also ignore the less serious rules. How many times do you hear that the Police stop someone for speeding and find no MOT, red diesel in the tank, drugs, or just find that the driver is someone they are after for burglary or something else?

    That is not to say that anyone who speeds is guilty of anything else; just that if you stop speeding drivers you are more likely to find other things than if you just stopped cars at random.

  • E Bungle

    I was watching Police Stop (or one of the plethora of similar shows) and they had a guy who was stopped for driving erratically, They pulled him up and the police man stated he had already caught the guy four times for Driving a stolen car, driving whilst disqualified and driving with no insurance (As it was a stolen car!!) then the voice over came up and announced he had received a 3 month suspended sentence £100 fine and 6 points on his license. is it just me or will points on the license of a guy who has been caught four times whilst disqualified really be no good!!

  • Skuds

    I think I saw something similar here a while ago. I can’t remember all the details, but some bloke was in court for being caught driving while banned for about the 20th time.

    Somehow his lawyer persuaded the judge not to extend the ban in order to help his client “break the cycle of offending” or something like that.