HMCIC criticises lack of upstream public investment in crime prevention and says public must decide how much crime they are willing to tolerate

In a lecture last night at the University of Cambridge, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary:

  • criticised the lack of public investment in early prevention of crime and disorder;
  • said that, as a result, the police cannot meet all demand; and
  • explained that the public must decide how much crime and disorder they are prepared to tolerate.

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Sir Thomas Winsor’s speech at the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University

Speaking at the Institute of Criminology in Clare College, Cambridge, Sir Thomas Winsor said police forces are under severe strain trying to cope with demand, including:

  • from crimes made more numerous and complex to investigate, such as cyber-crime and cyber-enabled crime (paras 7 – 9);
  • failures fully and efficiently to adopt modern technology such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning which can read and analyse data from electronic devices significantly faster and more reliably than people (paras 5 – 7); and
  • from lack of public investment in other public services, such as health (including mental health), education, housing and social services, which can much more cheaply and effectively intervene to prevent people, including children, being drawn into offending (paras 27 & 36 – 38).

Sir Thomas explained that the inspectorate has designed and introduced means – called force management statements – which, when fully mature, will enable the public to make judgments about what they reasonably expect the police to do, and what they are willing for the police not to do (paras 23 – 28).

Force management statements are now required every year from chief constables, stating:

  • the chief’s assessment of demand over the next four years; that is all demand – latent and patent, crime and non-crime;
  • the chief’s assessment of the condition, capacity, capability, performance and efficiency of the workforce, including officers’ and staff physical and mental welfare; and
  • the chief’s expectation of the financial resources the force will have to meet that demand with its assets.

Sir Thomas said that, with other public services in too many respects “throwing their problems over the boundary wall, into the territory of the police”, the public must face the fact that you cannot meet 100 per cent of demand for “60 or 70 per cent of its efficient cost” (paras 35 – 39).

He said that elected representatives (national and local) must address these questions on the basis of the most complete and reliable, objectively analysed information, and come to a political judgment about the state of the criminal justice system, which Sir Thomas described as presently “defective and dysfunctional” (paras 19 – 20).

He added that there are far fewer votes in the criminal justice system than there are in health and education, and that:

“Policymakers and others pay too little attention to criminal justice, that is unless and until their lives or the lives of people close to them are touched by it, whether as victims, witnesses or accused. Then the failures and inefficiencies – the many injustices of the system – appear to them in stark and shocking terms. But by then, of course, for them it is too late, and they have to endure it.”

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Sir Thomas Winsor’s speech at the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University