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Chapter 2: 10 to 15 Year Olds’ Perceptions of the Police 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 (those aged 16 and over) about their experiences of crime. In January 2009, the survey was extended to include 10 to 15 year old children. In addition to questions about experience of crime, the survey also covers other topics related to crime and policing. This chapter looks at responses to the questions about 10 to 15 year olds’ ratings and perceptions of the police, visibility of the police, and contact and satisfaction with the police. It also includes some analysis of how these responses vary according to different demographic characteristics of respondents.

Key findings include:

  • When asked about their level of agreement to seven perception statements concerning the performance of the police, agreement has remained fairly consistent over time. For example, in the 2012/13 CSEW 90% of 10 to 15 year olds agreed that the police would treat them fairly if they were stopped and searched; a figure that has remained unchanged for three years, after showing 89% agreement in 2009/10.

  • While the level of agreement with the seven perceptions statements has remained fairly stable, when asked for their overall opinion of the police there was an increase of seven percentage points (from 48% to 55%) between the 2009/10 and 2012/13 surveys.

  • In general, overall positivity about the police and agreement with some of the perception statements decreased with age. For example, 10 year olds were around twice as likely to have a positive opinion of their local police overall (75%) when compared with 15 year olds (38%).

  • The number of children who had seen a police officer or PCSO on foot patrol in their local area in the preceding 12 months has shown small fluctuations, including an increase of four percentage points between the two most recent survey years (from 67% in 2011/12 to 71% in 2012/13).

  • There’s no clear relationship between the frequency with which police officers or PCSOs are sighted and the opinion that 10 to 15 years olds had of the police. This differs from the findings relating to adult perceptions of the police, where those who recalled having seen the police more frequently were more likely to give positive ratings of them (as presented in Chapter 1).

  • In the 2012/13 CSEW, 22% of all 10 to 15 year olds had been approached by the police. Among those who had been approached, the most common reasons were to “tell you off or ask you to move on” or for “some other reason” (26% for each of these reasons).

  • Following contact with the police (that was initiated by the police rather than the child), most 10 to 15 year olds (65%) said their opinion of the police did not change as a result, 27% became more positive and 8% became less positive.

Introduction

There has always been importance placed on police engagement with young people. However, in recent years this emphasis has grown, with the 'Children and Young People Strategy 2010-2013' published by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) providing a more targeted focus. The strategy aims to “improve the satisfaction and confidence of children and young people in their police service”.

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester has taken the view that “Young people are our future and we have a responsibility to ensure they are involved in building safer neighbourhoods…”, supported by a three year interactive study in Manchester attempting to engage with local young people and gauge their opinion of the police. Other initiatives such as Fixers UK, promoted by police forces, aim to involve young people across the UK in order to create positive change.

The CSEW covers a range of measures related to the objectives of ACPO and police forces across England and Wales, and so its analysis is important in helping to understand the success of related initiatives over the longer term. This chapter is based on data collected from 10 to 15 year olds who completed the 2012/13 CSEW, with reference made to trends since the 2009/10 CSEW where possible. The survey took a nationally representative sample of 2,879 such children who were randomly selected from households in which an adult was selected for the main survey.

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 10 to 15 year old respondents a variety of questions about their views on the police, including their overall opinion of the police as well as the extent to which they agree with more specific statements such as whether the police “will help you if you need them” or if they “understand young people’s problems in the area”. There is some similarity to the questions asked of adults but the difference in wording means that the results cannot be compared directly with those from the children’s survey, which places more emphasis on how the police treat young people.

The 10 to 15 year olds’ survey has been running since 2009 which provides a relatively short time series, and it is too early to ascertain whether any long-term trends are emerging. Furthermore, question development means that the wording of some questions has changed over time, making some results not directly comparable with previous years.

Ratings of the local police

The CSEW has collected 10 to 15 year olds’ overall opinion of the police since 2009, by asking “What is your opinion of the police in your local area?”

As shown in Figure 2.1, since the 2009/10 survey positive responses to this question have shown a gradual year-on-year increase, with 55% of 10 to 15 year olds in the 2012/13 CSEW saying that they have a positive opinion of their local police. This represents an increase of seven percentage points since the 2009/10 survey (from 48%). There has also been a corresponding year-on-year decrease in those having a negative opinion of the police, with a decrease of three percentage points being seen between the 2009/10 and 2012/13 survey years (from 7% to 4%). However, the apparent differences in the two most recent survey years are not statistically significant.

While this result reveals an increase in overall positivity towards the police over time, this should not be interpreted in isolation. The finding differs to that shown from other CSEW perception measures for 10 to 15 year olds, whereby opinion about police behaviour and treatment of young people has remained fairly consistent over the survey’s lifetime (as presented in ‘Perceptions of the Police’ section and Table 2.1).

Figure 2.1: 10 to 15 year olds' opinion of the local police, 2009/10 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 2.1: 10 to 15 year olds' opinion of the local police, 2009/10 to 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics
  2. Local is defined as within a 15 minute walk from the respondent's home.

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Ratings of the police by demographic and behavioural characteristics

The 2012/13 CSEW found that opinion of the local police showed little variation according to different characteristics of 10 to 15 year olds. However, findings include:

  • Among 10 to 15 year olds, positive ratings of local police decreased with age; 10 year olds were around twice as likely to have a positive opinion of their local police (75%) when compared with 15 year olds (38%).

  • Younger girls (aged 10-12 years old) were most likely to have a positive opinion of their local police (72%), while older boys (aged 13-15 years old) were least likely (40%). However, the apparent difference between girls and boys overall was not statistically significant (57% and 53% had a positive opinion of their local police respectively).

  • Turning to behavioural characteristics, those that had been drunk in the last 12 months were around half as likely to rate their local police positively (29%) than those who had not been drunk (59%). Although the likelihood of a child being drunk increases with age, controlling for age still shows a difference between positive ratings of the police for those who had been drunk in the last 12 months and those who had not.

Figure 2.2: Percentage of 10 to 15 year olds who were positive about local police, by age, 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 2.2: Percentage of 10 to 15 year olds who were positive about local police, by age, 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics
  2. Local is defined as within a 15 minute walk from the respondent's home.

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Perceptions of the police

The CSEW also asks 10 to 15 year old respondents their level of agreement with the following seven statements:

  • Police will help you if you need them

  • Police are helpful and friendly to young people

  • Police treat young people the same as adults

  • Police treat each race and religion fairly

  • Police understand young people's problems in the area

  • Police deal with things that matter to local young people

  • Police would treat you fairly if they stopped and searched you

In the 2012/13 survey, respondents were most likely to agree with the statements “police will help you if you need them” and “police would treat you fairly if they stopped and searched you” (90% for each statement). This was followed by 87% agreeing that the “police treat each race and religion fairly”. The lowest level of agreement was with the statement “police treat young people the same as adults” (45%).

Unlike overall opinion of the police, the extent of agreement with the majority of the seven statements has remained fairly constant over time. The only statistically significant change was in the level of agreement to the statement “police will help you if you need them”, which saw a three percentage point increase in agreement between the 2009/10 and 2012/13 survey years (from 87% to 90%) with year-on-year increases (albeit not statistically significant) throughout that period.

Table 2.1: 10 to 15 year olds' ratings and perceptions of the local police, 2009/10 to 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Children aged 10 to 15
  2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 Statistically significant change, 2011/12 to 2012/13 Statistically significant change, 2009/10 to 2012/13
  Percentages    
Positive about police in local area 48 49 54 55   *
             
Police will help you if you need them 87 87 89 90   *
Police are helpful and friendly to young people 75 76 76 75    
Police treat young people the same as adults 43 44 44 45    
Police treat each race and religion fairly 86 86 88 87    
Police understand young people's problems in the area 69 70 70 71    
Police deal with things that matter to local young people 65 65 68 67    
Police would treat you fairly if stopped and searched 89 90 90 90    
             
Unweighted base3 1,189 1,255 1,180 1,342    

Table notes:

  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics.
  2. Local is defined as within a 15 minute walk from the respondent's home.
  3. Unweighted base refers to overall opinion of the local police.

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Although different questions are asked of the adult and child respondents the findings suggest that 10 to 15 year olds collectively are more positive about the police than adults, despite positive opinion declining within the age band. Furthermore, findings suggest that the opinion of 10 to 15 year olds may be less prone to fluctuations over time.

Perceptions of the police by demographic and behavioural characteristics

The 2012/13 CSEW found that agreement with the seven statements on perceptions of the police showed little variation according to different characteristics of 10 to 15 year olds. However, some differences were apparent, for example:

  • Agreement to “police understand young people’s problems in the area” decreased with age; 81% of 10 year olds agreed compared with 59% of 15 year olds. A similar pattern of decreasing agreement with age was seen in “police treat young people the same as adults”; 54% of 10 year olds agreed compared with 36% of 15 year olds.

  • The largest percentage point difference in agreement between White respondents and non-White respondents was with the statement “police treat everyone fairly whatever their skin colour or religion”; White respondents were more likely to agree (90%) than non-White respondents (77%). Furthermore, Christian respondents were more likely to agree (89%) with this statement when compared with respondents of other religions (85%). Although a greater number of Christians are White than non-White, this difference still applied when controlling for ethnic group.

  • The behavioural characteristic that showed the largest percentage point difference in levels of agreement for all seven statements was whether the respondent had been drunk in the 12 months prior to the survey. Those who had been drunk were less likely to agree with each statement than those who had not. The largest percentage point difference was for the statement “police are dealing with the things that matter to young people who live in the area”. 38% of those who had been drunk in the last 12 months agreed with this statement, while the equivalent figure for those who had not was almost double (70%).

  • There were no statistically significant differences between levels of agreement among boys and girls.

Section 2 – 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 ‘Apart from in or around your school, in the last 12 months have you seen any police officers or Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) on foot or on bicycles in your local area’ has been asked of 10 to 15 year olds in the CSEW since 2009/10. This is followed by a question about the frequency with which they have been seen.

In the 2012/13 CSEW, 71% of 10 to 15 year olds saw a police officer or PCSO on foot patrol in their local area (excluding in or around school) in the 12 months prior to the survey. Since 2009/10 when the survey began, the response to this question has remained fairly consistent with some small fluctuations between years. There was an increase of four percentage points between the 2011/12 and 2012/13 survey years (from 67% to 71%), a reverse of the trend seen in the adult CSEW where a small decrease in visibility between the same years was apparent (from 74% to 73%). This corresponds with a fall in the total number of police officers and PCSOs employed in England and Wales, as well as a decline in the proportion that are in visible functions (as presented in Chapter 1, Section 2).

The frequency with which sightings of police officers or PCSOs on foot patrol occurred was fairly evenly split and approximately mirrored that recalled by adults; 34% reported high visibility (seeing a police officer or PCSO on foot patrol at least once a week), 37% reported medium visibility (about or less than once a month) and 29% reported low visibility (never seeing a police officer or PCSO on foot patrol). Similarly to sightings of police officers or PCSOs, the level of frequency has remained fairly consistent over the four years of the survey.

Figure 2.3: Level of visibility of police foot patrols by 10 to 15 year olds, 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Figure 2.3: Level of visibility of police foot patrols by 10 to 15 year olds, 2012/13 CSEW

Notes:

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

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As presented in Chapter 1, findings from the adult CSEW have shown a clear relationship between visibility and ratings of the local police, with higher ratings being given by adults who reported seeing officers more regularly. Although the questions on the survey of 10 to 15 year olds are not directly comparable with the adults’ survey, this relationship between visibility of the police and opinions of the police is not apparent among 10 to 15 year olds; 57% of 10 to 15 year olds that reported high visibility of the police gave them a positive rating, while this figure was only slightly lower for those that reported medium or low visibility (54% in both cases).

Concerning children’s contact with the police, there is the additional potential for contact at school. There is evidence to suggest that police presence in schools (such as delivering talks) can improve relationships and reduce levels of youth offending (Lamont, Macleod and Wilkin, 2011).

When compared with the number of 10 to 15 year olds that had seen a police officer or PSCO on foot patrol in their local area, fewer recalled them giving a talk at their school (55%); a five percentage point increase from the previous year (50% in 2011/12). However, as this was only the second year that this question had been asked in the CSEW it is too early to infer any long-term trends.

Section 3 – Contact with the police

In the 2012/13 CSEW, just under a quarter of 10 to 15 year olds (22%) reported having experienced a police officer or PCSO talking to or approaching them in the 12 months prior to interview. The most common reasons for being approached by a police officer or PCSO was to “tell you off or ask you to move on” or for “some other reason” (in both cases this applied to 26% of those that had been approached by the police), followed by “to ask you about anti social behaviour or a crime” (17%). The wording of the statements changed in the 2012/13 CSEW, so comparisons with previous survey years are not possible.

Table 2.2: 10 to 15 year olds' reasons for contact with the police, 2012/13 CSEW

England and Wales

Children aged 10 to 15
  2012/13
  Percentage
Police have talked to or approached you 22
Unweighted base 1,396
   
Tell you off or ask you to move on 26
To ask you about anti social behaviour or a crime 17
Stopped you in the street 16
To ask for your opinion (e.g. about problems in the area) 15
Police officer personally known to respondent 11
To stop and search you 7
   
Some other reason 26
Don't know 10
   
Unweighted base 291

Table notes:

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

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Contact with the police by demographic and behavioural characteristics

Some key findings from analysis of those that had been approached by the police by demographic characteristics include:

  • Of those children aged 13-15 years old that had been approached by the police, over a third (36%) stated it was for the police to “tell you off or ask you to move on”. This makes them four times more likely to be approached by the police for this reason than 10-12 year olds (9%).

  • For boys, the most common reason to be approached by the police was “to tell you off or ask you to move on” (33%), making them over twice as likely to be approached for this reason compared with girls (15%).

  • For girls, the most common reason to be approached by the police was for “some other reason” (25%). This was followed by “to ask you about anti social behaviour or a crime” and “to ask for your opinion, e.g. about problems in the area” (20% for each reason).

  • Of those that had been talked to or approached by the police, for White 10 to 15 year old respondents this was almost four times as likely to be because they “stopped you in the street” (19%) than for non-White respondents (5%). The reasons for stopping the child are diverse, and exclude situations where the child has been stopped and searched.

 

Section 4 – Satisfaction with the police

Since the survey began in 2009, respondents who have had contact with the police were asked how satisfied they were with the way the police officer or PCSO handled the situation. If contact with the police is felt to be unfair and negative, evidence indicates that this risks undermining confidence in the police and threatens compliance (Bradford, 2011), and has a disproportionately greater negative effect than any positive effect of a good experience.

In the 2012/13 CSEW, just over three quarters of 10 to 15 year olds (78%) who had been approached by the police were satisfied with the way it had been handled, 8% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied and 14% were dissatisfied. The overall trend has shown fluctuation over time due to small sample sizes, with apparent changes not being statistically significant.

Similarly, there were no clear trends since the 2009/10 CSEW in changes to opinions of the police as a result of the most recent contact with them. In the 2012/13 CSEW, in the majority of cases (65%) opinion of the police did not change at all after recent contact, while 27% became more positive about the police and 8% became less positive.

Of those children who had been approached by the police, perhaps unsurprisingly those who were most likely to become more positive about them were those that recalled it being handled satisfactorily (34% became more positive). Despite being satisfied with their most recent contact, 3% still subsequently became less positive. However, unsatisfactory experiences only result in the child becoming less positive. 

Background notes

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    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.

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