PermaLink Crime levels04/19/2010 03:23 PM
The lowest level of crime in Greater Manchester for 10 years. The lowest level of gun crime for eight years. This is what our end of year figures showed last week which is great news for the people of Greater Manchester and the city region's reputation.

We won't be dancing in the streets however. The reduction is very welcome with crime reduced by 13 per cent last year but crime is still unacceptably high. That is why we have set ourselves further challenging reduction targets for the coming year.

It’s also important the police are careful about taking the credit for this reduction. In reality all the research shows that police activity has an impact on crime levels but not the greatest impact. Crime levels are hugely influenced by such issues as the level of deprivation and inequality. Crime is always higher in big cities than rural areas and the most prosperous areas of the country have the lowest levels of crime.

The reduction in crime is also due to stronger partnership efforts with police, councils, probation, the fire service and the courts working together. Crucially it is also about a better relationship with the public and with businesses in a joint effort to reduce the opportunities for crime.

It is also true that technology has played a part. CCTV and DNA help but so too do the car manufacturers and how they have incorporated crime prevention into cars. Changes to the market in stolen goods also helps, the drop in the price of electrical goods makes burglaries less productive.

At the same time the police have sharpened up their act. We now have much better use of intelligence and analysis so we have a clearer picture of patterns of crime and offending behaviour.

As I carried out a number of media interviews last week I was conscious that the public are pretty fed up with statistics and are sceptical about those that come from many public bodies. I understand that. If I tell a victim of burglary that burglary is currently down by 15 per cent what good is that to them?

The issue is more profound than this however. People trust their own experience - policing is not about producing statistics it is about people being safe and feeling safe. Their view will be dependent on how they feel about their area and their recent experiences of crime or anti-social behaviour.

So for me there are two really important questions:

1. What was your last experience of contacting Greater Manchester Police and did it reassure you?

2. Do you think crime in your area is getting better or worse is it the police that are in control or is it the yobs?

This does not mean that the statistics are not important. They help to tell you how you are doing on that journey they allow comparisons with other places but they are not an end in themselves.

I was also reminded this week that the statistics cannot hope to capture the full range of police activity and that much of our work is not directly related to crime. I was out on patrol with a local beat officer on an estate in Oldham. In a very short period of time across just a few streets we dealt with mental health issues, child welfare issues, dogs not being kept under control and housing issues. This is the reality of policing today and as we spend more time at the local level that is what we end up dealing with. It is often these very issues that are at the root of the anti-social behaviour and harassment issues affecting local people the most.

There was concern last week about a case involving officers using a Taser against a man suffering an epileptic fit. The ambulance service had called us because the man was very violent and had assaulted their staff. I can't comment on this particular case - it is now under independent investigation. What it illustrates again however is the sort of incident police officers increasingly have to deal with. When people become violent for whatever reason it is often the police who are asked to intervene in situations where other professionals cannot exert the level of physical control required. Another example of how the statistics do not capture the complexity of policing.

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