Judging by several articles this week the Times newspaper seems to be setting itself up in competition with the Daily Mail. Still, it's always nice to have one's prejudices confirmed, as they were by today's article (13th November 07) by Richard Ford …
Police are neglecting to tackle serious, violent crimes and focusing instead on more minor offences as they strive to meet government targets, the man charged with shaping the future of policing in England and Wales has admitted.
Peter Neyroud, chief executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency, said that over the past five years police had focused on increasing the number of "offences brought to justice". But the former chief constable admitted that this meant that catching a murderer carried no more importance than apprehending someone who had stolen a bottle of milk.
"There has been, in the minds of many professionals, me included, a neglect of the serious," Mr Neyroud said. "Because detecting a stolen milk bottle counts the same as detecting a murder . . . you get your points from, not necessarily milk bottles, but certainly in mid-range, volume crime, rather than serious crime."
This is the first time that a senior officer has suggested that the target-driven culture is diverting police from properly investigating more serious crimes. His comments reinforce those of rank-and-file officers at the weekend who said that police were putting more effort into catching burglars than investigating a paedophile ring.
The Government set the criminal justice system the target of bringing 1.25 million offences a year to justice by 2007-08, a figure that has already been exceeded. In the 12 months to June, 1.4 million offences were brought to justice. An offence is considered brought to justice when an offender is cautioned, convicted, had a crime taken into consideration, been given a fixed-penalty notice for disorder or a warning for possessing cannabis.
Mr Neyroud also admitted that the police had failed to improve significantly the detection rate for serious sexual and violent crimes and demanded the development of a national strategy to tackle the increasing number of homicides in England and Wales. Mr Neyroud said in his lecture to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, which was sponsored by The Times, that simply getting numbers through the system was not an end in itself.
He called for an improvement in the way that police deal with serious violent crimes and sexual attacks. The number of the most serious and violent offences against a person has risen from 14,230 when Labour came to power to a peak of 21,825 in 2003-04 before falling to 19,157 last year. These crimes include murder, manslaughter and causing death by dangerous driving.
The number of most serious recorded sexual crimes has also risen from 31,334 in 1997 to 48,700 in 2003-04 before falling to 43,755 last year.
Mr Neyroud said "For a number of us working in this area, the professional view is that the one area in which we have not improved significantly over the last ten years is raising our level of performance in relation to the most serious crimes. Levels of detection and levels of performance in that territory have not improved anything like as fast . . . as improvements in detections generally."
Last night Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, said: "This is a striking intervention from one of the most senior and experienced police officers in the country. The public would expect the police to make it a priority to deal with serious crimes of violence."
The comments from Times readers are always interesting and often perceptive …
I know this has been happening for ages, I know through experience, I witnessed a police car almost collide with a civilian car when I was crossing my 8 year old nephew, and when I told the officer I was going to report him for dangerous driving and went on my way, I was arrested and kept in police cells for 18 hours. - Beverley Keenan, Blackpool
It doesn't seem to make any difference really since even serious crimes are rewarded with ludicrously short sentences, and the criminals are released early because of prison overcrowding. - Bill Q, Derby
Targets for any organisation create a division in the workforce and tend to see the devious and untrustworthy rise to the top. Like water, targets (or those charged with achieving them) will take the flow of least resistance to obtain the highest scores. - John Turnbull, Gloucester
Recently my son was subject to an unprovoked attack by three men. His injuries amounted to S18 wounding: a serious offence. The police have not even spoken to him in person. I have been in dialogue with the police who have failed to conduct a full investigation. For example statements have not been taken from witnesses and no thought has been given to identification procedures. The police are a disgrace. After ten years of constant and significant change to policing which is now target driven, the police are no longer a respected institution. Incidentally if you think I am biased, I am a serving officer. - Allan Stevenson, Cheshire
The police, the NHS, teaching. This government is obsessed with targets which simply deliver statistics that have no relation to the quality of service delivered. In fact they hinder delivery of a quality service. All they are designed to do is allow politicians to go to the electorate and say 'look how good we are'. Unfortunately the electorate is largely ignorant of just how much these pointless targets are damaging our public services. The sooner they are abolished the better, so that public sector workers can get back to delivering the quality services they want to. - Graham, Leeds
A few readers wanted to know why The Times was even bothering to report something we've all known for years - a view one can sympathise with, frankly, although to be fair what the Times was featuring was the news that finally a top police officer was putting his head over the parapet, more credit to him.
The GOS says: Mind you, you can't please all of the people all of the time. One reader wrote "This is simply political scare-mongering and it undermines the huge efforts of every single police officer who serves their community. The police are an apolitical organisation and work solely in the best interests of society. Peter Neyroud, evidently, is not and does not. His comments are unhelpful and an abuse of position."
His name is Danny and he lives in Stoke-on-Trent.
What a pr*t.
(P.S. Now here's a thing. Only weeks after Police Community Support Officers, or "Plastic Policemen" were heavily criticised for not going into the water to find a drowned boy in Wigan because "they weren't trained" for it, comes this report of two Plastic Police Ladies who acted rather differently …)
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