Public confidence in local policing wobbles despite major investment in protecting neighbourhoods

Confidence in police is falling across South Yorkshire communities despite the re-introduction of neighbourhood officers and other measures to control crime and other problems.

Monday, 22nd July 2019, 12:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th July 2019, 1:57 pm
Dr Alan Billings

Reasons for the apparent contradiction remain unclear and the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said it was possible the changes to policing may still need time to feed through into public opinion.

But he added: “If we are putting so much into neighbourhood policing and are not seeing any increase of confidence, that would make me worry.”

“The answer may be that not enough time has gone by.

“When people know neighbourhood teams are being strengthened, confidence may rise but we don’t know.”

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Neighbourhood policing has been re-introduced across the county with great success and those teams are being further strengthened as overall police numbers increase.

Details of a reduction in numbers of people who believe police are doing a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ job were included in a report from the force to Dr Billings’ Public Accountability Board.

It said: “Our survey findings show that this reduction is linked to a perceived increase in crime and anti-social behaviour, and a reduction in those reporting that the police are dealing with things that matter locally.”

Dr Billings said data came from the Your Voice Counts surveys conducted in the county and he acknowledged: “It is a measure, if not the best measure”.

“There may be better ways of getting at trust and confidence,” he said.

The fine balance between police activity and public opinion was illustrated by reaction at a public meeting in Burngreave, Sheffield, where Dr Billings told those attending there was little evidence that stop and search checks on crime suspects – increasingly common in South Yorkshire – had a significant impact on overall crime levels.

“They said I was measuring the wrong thing,” he said, “The impact it has for people feeling safe must also be measured. Helping the community feel safe is just as important as keeping them safe.”