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Chapter 1: Public Perceptions of the Police, and Police Visibility, 2012/13 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 30 May 2014 Download PDF

Summary

Since it began in 1981, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) has asked adults aged 16 and above a range of different questions regarding their opinions of the police. This chapter explores ratings and perceptions of the police, overall confidence in the police, confidence in the authorities at catching criminals and dealing with anti-social behaviour, visibility of the police, and the relationship between visibility and ratings. Victim satisfaction with the police is also covered. Key findings include:

  • The proportion of adults who reported that the police in their local area do a good or excellent job has increased year-on-year over the past decade. The latest data from the 2012/13 CSEW indicate the trend is levelling off, with the proportion of adults giving positive ratings of the local police recording a small decrease when compared with the 2011/12 survey (down one percentage point to 61%).

  • Despite shifts in the specific perception measures, the CSEW measure of overall confidence in the police did not change between the 2011/12 and 2012/13 surveys (the one percentage point decline was not statistically significant).

  • The proportion of adults who reported seeing a police officer on foot patrol in their local area at least once a week recorded a decrease of four percentage points from 38% in the 2011/12 CSEW to 34% in the 2012/13 CSEW. Prior to this, proportions reporting this level of visibility increased until 2009/10, after which trends remained broadly steady.

  • High visibility was associated with positive ratings of the police. Sixty-nine per cent of adults who reported seeing officers on foot patrol at least once a week gave the police an excellent or good rating. This compared with just over half (53%) of adults who reported never seeing the police on patrol believing the police are doing an excellent or good job.
  • Victim satisfaction remained steady from the 2011/12 to the 2012/13 survey, with around three-quarters (74%) saying they were either fairly or very satisfied with how the police handled the matter. Around a quarter (26%) stated they were not satisfied.

Introduction

How the public view the police is very important. Positive perceptions of police trust and fairness promote engagement and compliance (Bradford and Jackson, 2011a). Additionally, if people do not believe that their local police are fair, the police lose legitimacy and people’s connections with the police and other agencies are eroded (Bradford and Jackson, 2011b).

The CSEW has several questions which measure confidence and trust in the police, as well as police visibility. There is strong evidence that confidence and visibility are connected – Skogan (2009) found that the extent of visible local policing had an effect on people’s concerns about not just crime, but also confidence in police. Sindall and Sturgis (2013) have recently reaffirmed the theory that visibility has a significant and positive effect on confidence.

Victim satisfaction with the police is another important measure of police performance. Chandek (1999) found two significant predictors of victim satisfaction with the police: officer demeanour (the more concerned an officer appears, the more likely satisfaction will be higher) and expectation fulfilment (satisfaction that the police met or exceeded their expectations about any relevant investigative activities).

Victims are asked in the CSEW if they were satisfied with the way various agencies (police, Crown Prosecution Service, Victim Support etc.) handled the matter. This report focuses on victim satisfaction with the police; other reports, for example ‘Support for victims: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales’ published by the Ministry of Justice, have covered victim satisfaction with the other criminal justice sector agencies.

Unless otherwise stated, all changes over time and differences in measures described in this chapter are statistically significant.

Section 1 – Ratings and perceptions of the police

The CSEW asks adults a number of questions measuring how satisfied they are with the police and the services they deliver. These range from asking for general views on how good a job the police are doing, to more specific questions, on subjects like the extent to which the police understand local issues, and confidence that the authorities are dealing with crime and catching criminals. This set of measures should be seen as a package; for example, a trend emerging over several measures could suggest a change in overall public confidence in the police.

As a result of changes to the ‘Performance of the Criminal Justice System’ module in the 2011/12 CSEW1, findings from the 2011/12 survey on are not directly comparable with those previous. There were two main changes to the module:

  • Some questions were removed entirely, which may have had an impact on responses to some of the other questions within the module,

  • Further questions were only asked of half the survey sample, instead of the full sample. This may have had an impact on responses from the two half samples; there is evidence that the wider context and order in which questions appear in a survey can influence answers given, particularly for attitudinal questions2.

The ONS published a methodological note (167 Kb Pdf) in November 2012, which explored whether the changes to the module did indeed lead to an ‘order effect’ which would have had an impact on responses to questions on attitudes toward the police and the criminal justice system more widely. The note presents evidence of a positive step change, where the removal of certain questions meant an increase in positive responses to a subsequent question. This had an effect on several questions covered in this chapter, including:

  • overall rating of the local police,

  • perceptions of the local police, and

  • confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour.

As a result, the methodological note advised that data from 2011/12 onwards is not directly comparable with previous surveys. The module was kept the same from 2011/12 to 2012/13 and therefore direct comparisons between those two years are valid.

Notes for Section 1 – Ratings and perceptions of the police

  1. The CSEW is reviewed annually and changes are made to the questionnaire to respond to user needs or to reflect changing realities.

  2. See for example, Dillman et al (2009), and Schuman and Presser (1996).

Overall ratings of the local police

Since the 2003/04 survey, the CSEW has asked adults “Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think the police in this area are doing?”1

Figure 1.1 shows that from the 2011/12 CSEW to 2012/13 CSEW, there was a decrease in the proportion of adults who gave a positive (excellent or good) rating regarding the local police doing their job, from 62.3% in the 2011/12 survey to 61.4% in 2012/13.

This latest annual movement represents a slight change to the overall trend. Since the question was first asked in 2003/04, there have been incremental increases (totalling 14 percentage points) in people who gave the police a positive rating, with corresponding decreases (ten percentage points) in those who thought the police were doing a poor or very poor job in their local area2 ( Appendix table 1.01 (534 Kb Excel sheet) ). The most up-to-date data available3 suggests that the trend will hold steady at around current levels. Final data for the 2013/14 year will be published in Open Data tables in July 2014.

When the ratings measures are broken down further, the slight shift in ratings of the police in the 2012/13 CSEW becomes more apparent:

  • There was a decrease in respondents who thought the police were doing an excellent job when compared with the previous year, from 10.4% in the 2011/12 survey to 9.6% in the 2012/13 survey.

  • Additionally, there was an increase in those who thought the police were doing a very poor job when compared to the previous year, from 1.8% in the 2011/12 survey to 2.2% in 2012/13.

Figure 1.1: Trends in ratings of the local police, 2003/04 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.1: Trends in ratings of the local police, 2003/04 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics
  2. Numbers from the 2011/12 CSEW onwards are not directly comparable with those previous. See the methodological note published alongside Focus On: Public Perceptions of Policing 2011/12 for more information.

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Notes for Overall ratings of the local police

  1. A form of this question has been asked since the survey began in 1981. However, changes to the question in 2003/04 mean earlier comparisons are not possible. For findings of this question, see Crime in England and Wales 2002/03: Supplementary Volume 2.

  2. As mentioned previously, due to changes to the relevant CSEW module, numbers from the 2011/12 survey onwards are not directly comparable with those previous.

  3. Year to December 2013 figures are available, see the Open Data tables published alongside the year to December quarterly bulletin.

Ratings of the police by key characteristics

Different demographic and socio-economic characteristics can impact how people rate the police. A long-term examination by Jackson et al. (2012) of key demographic trends in police ratings have found that these individual characteristics have become less important over time, and opinions of the police may have become more generalised. The authors present a number of theories as to why this might be the case, including:

  • People’s life experiences becoming more and more similar;

  • All people are being treated in an equitable way by the police, regardless of their demographic and socio-economic characteristics; and,

  • Changes to the way police have been deployed (for example, an effort to target speeding drivers may mean the people targeted did not previously have contact with the police)1.

The 2012/13 CSEW found, like previous surveys, there is some variation in both personal and household characteristics. Key findings relating to personal characteristics from the 2012/13 CSEW include:

  • The police were more likely to be given a positive rating by women (64%) than men (59%).

  • The unemployed (54%) were less likely to say the police were doing a good or excellent job compared with those in employment (61%).

  • Those who thought their local crime rate was higher than the national average were less likely to give the police a positive rating (44%) than those who thought their local crime rate was lower than average (69%).

  • Those who were victims of crime in the past twelve months (53%) were less likely to think the police were doing a good or excellent job, compared with those who were not victims (63%). For more information of how this has changed over time, see Section 4 – Victim satisfaction with the police.

Key findings relating to household characteristics from the 2012/13 CSEW include:

  • Single parents were less likely to think the police were doing a good or excellent job (59%) than couples with children (62%).

  • Those in the 20% least deprived areas2 were more likely to think the police were doing a good or excellent job (68%) than those in the 20% most deprived areas (56%).

Further information on both household and personal characteristics can be found in Appendix table 1.02 and 1.03 (534 Kb Excel sheet) .

Notes for Ratings of the police by key characteristics

  1. See Just Authority? Trust in the police in England and Wales, Chapter two, ’25 years of public confidence in the police’, for further details.

  2. Deprivation is measured using an employment deprivation indicator. See Section 7.1 of the User Guide for more information on how this is calculated.

Perceptions of the police

In addition to general ratings of the police, the CSEW also asks respondents whether or not they agree or disagree with six statements relating to their perceptions of the police. All six statements have been included in the survey since 20041, although the first full year of data was from the 2005/06 survey. While the ratings of the local police question is generally about how good a job the police are doing, these perceptions statements measure both the level of service provided by the police, and also their general behaviour towards the public. The six statements asked are:

  • Police can be relied upon when needed,

  • Police would treat you with respect,

  • Police would treat you fairly,

  • Police understand local concerns,

  • Police deal with local concerns, and

  • Taking everything into account I have confidence in the police in this area.

In the 2012/13 survey year, 74% of adults reported that overall, they had confidence in the police ( Appendix table 1.04 (534 Kb Excel sheet) ) – the apparent one percentage point drop was not statistically significant. Figure 1.2 shows that the proportion of adults agreeing they had overall confidence in the local police has increased steadily since the statements were first introduced (63% agreed in the 2005/06 survey).

Similar to the overall ratings of the police measure, some police perception statements have shown a slight shift from the 2011/12 survey to the 2012/13 survey. Table 1.1 shows that three measures reported a decrease in the proportion of respondents agreeing with these statements (‘police will treat you fairly’, ‘police understand local concerns’, and ‘police deal with local concerns’), while the other three were either flat, or showed an apparent decline that was not statistically significant. Similar to ratings of the police, published data to December 2013 suggests that the series will hold steady at current levels.

Figure 1.2: Trends in overall confidence of the local police, 2005/06 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.2: Trends in overall confidence of the local police, 2005/06 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.
  2. Numbers from the 2011/12 CSEW onwards are not directly comparable with those previous. See the methodological note published alongside Focus On: Public Perceptions of Policing 2011/12 for more information.

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As well as the overall confidence statement, since the introduction of these statements to the CSEW in 2005/06, the number of adults agreeing or strongly agreeing with them has had a statistically significant increase across all statements ( see Appendix table 1.04 (534 Kb Excel sheet) ). This increase has ranged since the 2005/06 CSEW from a two percentage point rise for ‘police will treat you fairly’, to a 12 percentage point increase for both ‘police can be relied upon when needed’ and ‘police deal with local concerns’. Similar to ratings of the police, these statements were affected by changes to the questionnaire, and as a result numbers from the 2011/12 CSEW onwards are not directly comparable with those previous.

Table 1.1: Ratings of the police, 2005/06 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Adults aged 16 and over
Perception measure 2005/062 2011/122 2012/13 Statistically significant change, 2011/12 - 2012/13 
  Percentage agreeing  
Police can be relied upon when needed 47              59 59  
Police would treat you with respect 82              86 86  
Police would treat you fairly 63              67 65 *
Police understand local concerns 60              72 71 *
Police deal with local concerns 49              62 60 *
         
Overall confidence in local police 63              75 74  
         
Unweighted base3 47,367      45,736      34,628  

Table notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.
  2. Numbers from the 2011/12 CSEW onwards are not directly comparable with those previous. See the methodological note published alongside Focus On: Public Perceptions of Policing 2011/12 for more information.
  3. Unweighted base refers to overall confidence in the local police. Other bases will be similar.

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Notes for Perceptions of the police

  1. A seventh statement, ‘Police can be relied upon to deal with minor crimes’, was removed from the questionnaire in 2011/12.

Perceptions of the police by key characteristics

When considering different personal and household characteristics, there is some variation in perceptions of the police. Regarding the overall confidence measure, some notable variations found in the 2012/13 survey included:

  • Those aged 75 and over were most likely to have confidence in the police (85%), in sharp contrast to the youngest age group (those aged 16-24), which had the lowest levels of confidence (71%).

  • A higher proportion of white respondents had more confidence in the police (75%) than non-white respondents (72%).

  • Those whose newspaper of choice was a ‘broadsheet’ (78%) had higher confidence than those who prefer ‘popular’ newspapers (74%).

  • Those who had been a victim of crime in the preceding 12 months were less likely to have confidence in the police (65%) than those who were not victims (77%).

  • Those who perceived their local crime rate to be higher than average had considerably lower confidence in the police (55%) than those who believed their local crime rate is lower than average (80%).

Further information on both household and personal characteristics can be found in Appendix tables 1.05 and 1.06 (534 Kb Excel sheet) .

Confidence in the police at catching criminals

While both ratings and perceptions ask the public what they think of their local police, the question “How confident are you that the police are effective at catching criminals?” directly asks people how good they think the police are at a specific part of their jobs. This question has been asked since 2007/081.

In the 2012/13 CSEW, there was a decrease of one percentage point in the proportion of adults who were very confident in the police catching criminals ( Appendix table 1.07 (534 Kb Excel sheet) ). Equally, there was an increase of one percentage point in those not at all confident in the police catching criminals.

Despite this recent movement, Figure 1.3 shows that over the past five years, the public have become more confident in the police’s ability to catch criminals. In the 2007/08 CSEW, 47% of adults were either not very or not at all confident, but by the 2012/13 survey, this had shrunk to 33%. Conversely, those who were confident in the police’s ability to catch criminals increased from 53% in the 2007/08 survey to 67% in the 2012/13 CSEW.

Figure 1.3: Confidence that the police are effective at catching criminals, 2007/08 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.3: Confidence that the police are effective at catching criminals, 2007/08 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.

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Notes for Confidence in the police at catching criminals

  1. This question is not affected by the changes to the questionnaire in 2011/12.

Confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour

Respondents are also asked how much they agree or disagree that the police and local council are dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) in the area where they live. While this measure is similar to gauging confidence in the police at catching criminals, it more concerns how local authorities cooperate to deal with not only crime, but also wider societal issues like drunken behaviour or rowdiness. This question has been asked in the CSEW every year since 2007/08. However, this question was affected by the same changes to the survey in 2011/12 as ratings and perceptions of the police, so movements before and after that time should be interpreted with caution.

Consistent with other perceptions measures presented, the proportion of adults agreeing that they had confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB in their local area recorded a decrease over the past two survey years. Whereas 61% agreed in the 2011/12 CSEW, Table 1.2 shows that this declined by two percentage points to 59% in the 2012/13 survey. Conversely, those who expressed no opinion about the police and local council dealing with crime and ASB increased by two percentage points, from 23% to 25%. Those who disagreed remained steady at 16%. Similar to both ratings and perceptions of the police, published data for the year to December 2013 suggests that the series will hold steady at around current levels.

Table 1.2: Confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB, 2007/08 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Adults aged 16 and over
Perception measure 2007/082 2011/122 2012/13 Statistically significant change, 2011/12 - 2012/13 
  Percentage agreeing  
Agree 45              61 59 *
Disagree 25              16 16  
No opinion 30              23 25 *
         
Unweighted base 19,720      44,618      33,621  

Table notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.
  2. Numbers from the 2011/12 CSEW onwards are not directly comparable with those previous. See the methodological note published alongside Focus On: Public Perceptions of Policing 2011/12 for more information.

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Figure 1.4 shows that since the question was introduced, confidence in the police and local authorities at dealing with crime and ASB has grown. In the 2007/08 CSEW 45% of respondents agreed with the statement, while 25% disagreed. By the 2010/11 survey those agreeing had increased to 52%. Proportions agreeing in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 surveys were also much higher than in earlier years; however, the changes to the questionnaire from 2011/12 onwards mean these increases should be viewed with caution when considering the longer term trend.

Figure 1.4: Confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB, 2007/08 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.4: Confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB, 2007/08 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.
  2. Numbers from the 2011/12 CSEW onwards are not directly comparable with those previous. See the methodological note published alongside Focus On: Public Perceptions of Policing 2011/12 for more information.

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Confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB by key characteristics

Like the measures relating to ratings and perceptions of the police, the extent to which adults agree or disagree with the statement that they have confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB varies according to a number of key characteristics. The overall decrease of two percentage points in those who agree with the statement from 2011/12 to 2012/13 is generally across the board, and not limited to those with certain characteristics1. Findings from the 2012/13 CSEW include:

  • In contrast to the confidence in the police measure, non-White respondents were more likely to have confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB (63%) than White respondents (59%).

  • Similar to overall confidence in the police, the oldest age group (75 and over) had the most confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB (66%) than the other age groups. Other age groups ranged between 57% (45-54) and 61% (65-74).

  • In line with the ratings and perceptions measures, victims of crime expressed less confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB (50%) than non-victims (61%).

  • There was little difference in the proportion of respondents in rural or urban areas that agreed that they had confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB. However, those in urban areas were more likely to disagree with the statement (17%) compared to those in rural areas (15%).

Further information on both household and personal characteristics can be found in Appendix tables 1.09 and 1.10 (534 Kb Excel sheet) .

Notes for Confidence in the police and local council at dealing with crime and ASB by key characteristics

  1. Findings from the 2011/12 CSEW for this question by key characteristics were published as part of the Annual trend and demographic tables 2011-12, published on 19 July 2012.

Section 2 – Visibility and awareness of the police

There is good evidence that police visibility is linked positively to confidence and trust in the police. Visibility provides what Povey (2001) refers to as ‘comfort factors’ – approaches that provide reassurance to the public about police presence, such as Neighbourhood Watch schemes, patrolling police, and obvious presence of CCTV.

There is a high public interest in levels of policing. If there are reductions to police numbers, will this lead to a negative impact in ‘comfort factors’ such as visibility? In March 2013, Home Office collated figures showed there were 129,584 full time equivalent police officers across the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales1. This represented a decrease of 3.4% (or 4,516 officers) when compared with March 2012. There was also a 1.3% decrease in Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), from 14,393 in March 2012 to 14,205 in March 2013. A HMIC report in 20132 concluded that in the face of reductions to police force budgets in recent years, forces have taken material steps to protect their front-line services.

Despite forces attempting to mitigate drops in front-line staff, HMIC reported that the proportion of police and PCSOs in visible functions3 has decreased from 61% in the year to March 2012 to 59% in the year to March 2013 (HMIC 2013). HMIC does point out that new approaches such as single-crewing on patrol (in place of two-person patrols), and improving technology to ensure officers are out on the beat more often, have been implemented in an attempt to ease the effect of these reductions.

The CSEW asks questions not just about whether or not respondents have seen police or PCSOs on foot patrol, but also about people’s awareness of various community engagement activities designed to increase engagement with and visibility of the police. Examples of this include membership of Neighbourhood Watch initiatives and attendance at beat meetings. The results for these other awareness questions can be found in the Appendix tables.

Notes for Section 2 – Visibility and awareness of the police

  1. See Police workforce, England and Wales, 31 March 2013. In January 2014, year to September 2013 workforce numbers were published. However, to be consistent with the rest of the publication, year to March 2013 figures have been used.

  2. See HMIC’s Policing in austerity: Rising to the challenge.

  3. HMIC lists visible functions as response or patrol officers, community policing teams, and firearms, dogs, and traffic officers.

Visibility of the police

A core measure of police visibility is the frequency with which the public see officers on foot patrol in their neighbourhood. The question ‘How often do you see police officers or PCSOs on foot patrol in your local area’ has been asked in the CSEW since 2006/07.

In the 2012/13 CSEW, over a third of adults reported seeing a police officer on foot patrol either at least once a week (high visibility), or about or less than once a month (medium visibility) (34% and 39% respectively) ( Appendix table 1.11 (534 Kb Excel sheet) ). Just over a quarter (27%) reported never seeing an officer on foot patrol (low visibility).

Figure 2.1 looks at the trends in high, medium, and low visibility of police officers on foot patrol since the 2006/07 survey. High visibility increased from 2006/07 to 2009/10, before flattening out until 2011/12. More recently however, the 2012/13 CSEW showed a decrease in high visibility to 34% compared with 38% in the 2011/12 survey. Respondents reporting medium or low visibility of officers on foot patrol remained steady from the 2010/11 CSEW to the 2011/12 CSEW, but both reported statistically significant increases in the 2012/13 survey (medium visibility increased from 36% to 39% while low visibility increased from 26% to 27%).

Figure 1.5: Visiblity of police foot patrols, 2006/07 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.5:  Visiblity of police foot patrols, 2006/07 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.
  2. Those that responded 'Don't know' have been excluded from this figure.

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Visibility of the police by key characteristics

As might be expected, certain key personal or household characteristics can play a part in how visible the police are to adults. The 2012/13 CSEW found:

  • Those aged 25-34 (45%) were the most likely to report high visibility of police foot patrols. The second highest age group were those aged 16-24, with 39% reporting high visibility.

  • White respondents (31%) were much less likely to have reported high visibility of police foot patrols compared with non-White respondents (53%).

  • The unemployed were more likely to report high visibility (48%) than those in employment (35%).

  • Those who perceived there to be a high level of anti-social behaviour in their local area tended to see the police on foot patrol much more often (46% reported high visibility) than those who perceived a low level of anti-social behaviour (32% reported high visibility).

  • Those living in rural communities saw the police far less often on foot patrol (16%) than those living in urban communities (38%).

Further information on both household and personal characteristics can be found in Appendix tables 1.12 and 1.13 (534 Kb Excel sheet) .

Change in frequency of police on foot patrol

The CSEW also asks whether respondents have noticed a change in the frequency of police on foot patrol over the past two years. Figure 2.2 shows that 16% of adults thought they saw police officers less often, which was a statistically significant increase from the 2011/12 CSEW (up four percentage points). Conversely, there was a statistically significant decrease in those reporting seeing the police more often than over the previous two years, down six percentage points to 20%.

Figure 1.6: Frequency of respondents seeing police on foot patrol over the past two years, 2011/12 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.6: Frequency of respondents seeing police on foot patrol over the past two years, 2011/12 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.

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In addition to the CSEW visibility measures, in 2013 HMIC asked ‘Thinking about seeing police officers out in the streets in your neighbourhood, would you say you are seeing them more often, less often or as often as you would have done 12 months ago?’ in their all-force comparison survey. This online survey of around 19,000 adults found 32% of respondents reported seeing police patrolling in their local neighbourhood less often than the 12 months earlier. Around half (51%) reported seeing patrolling police the same amount as they did a year earlier1. While the methodology used by HMIC is not the same, they do show similar findings to the CSEW (although with higher percentages reporting less visible policing).

The changes reported over the previous two years have coincided with reductions in total numbers of police officers, and HMIC’s reported drop of officers in visible roles. Section 3 considers the relationship between visibility and ratings of the police.

Notes for Change in frequency of police on foot patrol

  1. See Chapter 7 of Policing in austerity: Rising to the challenge for more information.

Section 3 – Relationship between perceptions and visibility of the police

Visibility of the police is one of the factors that can influence perceptions of the police. A number of studies (for example see Sindall and Sturgis 2013, Dalgleish and Myhill 2004, and Wakefield 2006) have found that increased visibility (generally in the form of foot patrols) has a positive relationship with not just public confidence in the police, but also general feelings of safety and security.

The positive relationship between high visibility and positive ratings of the police can be seen in the CSEW data. As shown in Figure 1.7, in the 2012/13 CSEW 69% of those that reported seeing officers on foot patrol at least once a week (high visibility) gave the police an excellent or good rating (this is compared with 61% of all respondents who gave the police an excellent or good rating).

Conversely, those that reported never seeing the police on foot patrol are much more likely to give the police a fair, poor, or very poor rating than an excellent or good rating. Just over half (53%) of people who reported never seeing the police (low visibility) believe the police are doing an excellent or good job.

Figure 1.7: Visibility of police foot patrols by rating of the police, 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.7:  Visibility of police foot patrols by rating of the police, 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.

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Section 4 – Victim satisfaction with the police

Victim satisfaction is an important measure of the performance of the criminal justice system. A Home Office report under the previous government in 2006 addressed the need to ‘rebalance the system’ toward the ‘victim and the law abiding majority’. This focus continued following the change in administration with the Government’s 2011 Green Paper stating that victims should be able to engage with the criminal justice system on ‘their terms’. The Ministry of Justice has covered the wider topic of victim support across the system, with the latest report using data from the CSEW published in May 2013.

Since 1992, the CSEW has asked victims of crime, ‘Overall, were you (the victim) satisfied or dissatisfied with the way the police handled the matter?’  In the 2012/13 CSEW, 74% of victims reported being either very or fairly satisfied with how the police handled the matter ( Appendix table 1.14 (534 Kb Excel sheet) ). Breaking this down further, the percentage of those very satisfied remained flat in the 2012/13 survey when compared with the 2011/12 survey (the apparent increase from 37% to 38% was not statistically significant). Similarly, there were non-statistically significant movements for those fairly satisfied (34% in 2011/12 to 35% in 2012/13) and not satisfied with the way the police handled the matter (29% in 2011/12 to 26% in 2012/13).

Figure 1.8 shows the long term trend for those ‘fairly satisfied’ has remained flat, while those ‘very satisfied’ increased from around a quarter of adults (26% in 2007/08) to well over a third (38%) in the 2012/13 CSEW. Conversely, those not satisfied with the way the police handled the matter decreased from 41% to 26% over that same time period.

Figure 1.8: Victim satisfaction with the police, 1992 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 1.8: Victim satisfaction with the police, 1992 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.

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As referenced in Section 1, a victim of crime is much less likely to say the police are doing a good or excellent job (53% of victims stated this in the 2012/13 CSEW, compared with those who were not victims, of whom 63% gave a positive rating). Similar gaps are reported in other measures, such as overall confidence in the police and confidence in the police and local council at dealing with ASB.

Previous ONS and Home Office publications have also reported on these differences, and have found that despite recent positive increases in both police ratings and victim satisfaction, the gap between victims and non-victims has remained approximately the same. Both the ONS Focus On: Public Perceptions of Policing, published in November 2012, and a Home Office report published five years ago (Crime in England and Wales 2008/09) found a similar difference in the CSEW between victims and non-victims for overall ratings of the police (53% for victims compared with 65% for non-victims in the 2011/12 survey, and 45% for victims compared with 56% for non-victims in the 2008/09 survey). 

In addition to the CSEW, police forces run their own surveys, known as Local User Satisfaction Surveys. These provide estimates for individual forces over time, and include the views of people who have had contact with the police in connection with a burglary, vehicle crime, or violent crime. The results are published each quarter on the HMIC Crime & Policing Comparator.

References

Bradford, B. and Jackson J., 2011a, ‘Why Britons Trust their Police

Bradford, B. and Jackson J., 2011b, ‘When Trust is Lost: the British and their Police after the Tottenham Riots

Chandek, M., 1999 Race, expectations and evaluations of police performance: An empirical assessment, Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 22(4), pp 675-695.

Dalgleish, D., and Myhill, A., 2004, ‘Reassuring the public: A review of international policing interventions

Dillman, D., Smyth, J., and Christian, L., 2009, ‘Internet, Mail, and Mixed-mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method

Franklyn, R., (Ministry of Justice), 2012, ‘Satisfaction and willingness to engage with the Criminal Justice System: Findings from the Witness and Victim Experience Survey, 2009-10

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), 2013, ‘Policing in Austerity: Rising to the Challenge

Home Office, 2004, ‘Crime in England and Wales 2002/03: Supplementary Volume 2: Crime, disorder and the Criminal Justice System – public attitudes and perceptions

Home Office, 2006, ‘Rebalancing the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority: Cutting crime, reducing reoffending and protecting the public

Home Office, 2013, ‘Police workforce, England and Wales

Jackson, J., Bradford, B., Stanko, E.A., and Hohl, K., 2012, Just Authority? Trust in the Police in England and Wales

Ministry of Justice, 2010, ‘Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders

Ministry of Justice, 2013, ‘Support for victims: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales

Office for National Statistics, 2012a, ‘Focus On: Public Perceptions of Policing: Findings from the 2011/12 Crime Survey for England and Wales

Office for National Statistics, 2012b, ‘ Methodological note on the possible order effect on responses to questions on attitudes to the police and criminal justice system arising from changes in the CSEW questionnaire (167 Kb Pdf)

Office for National Statistics, 2014a, ‘Crime Statistics, year end December 2013’

Office for National Statistics, 2014b, ‘User Guide to Crime Statistics for England and Wales

Povey, K., (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary), 2001, ‘Open all hours: A thematic inspection report on the role of police visibility and accessibility in public reassurance

Schuman, H., and Presser, S., 1996, ‘Questions and Answers in Attitude Surveys

Sindall, K. and Sturgis, P., 2013, ‘Austerity policing: Is visibility more important that absolute numbers in determining public confidence in the police' European Journal of Criminology 10(2) pp137-153

Skogan, W., 2009, ‘Concern about Crime and Confidence in the Police: Reassurance or Accountability’ Police Quarterly 12(3) pp 301-318

TNS BMRB, 2013, ‘The 2012/13 Crime Survey for England and Wales: Technical Report, Volume One

Wakefield, A., 2006, ‘The Value of Foot Patrol: A Review of Research

Background notes

  1. If you have any queries regarding crime statistics for England and Wales please email crimestatistics@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

  2. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs;
    • are well explained and readily accessible;
    • are produced according to sound methods; and
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

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