Bobbies on the beat now a rare sight

28 December 2017

A police officer talking to a member of the public

A rare sight - a police officer out and about

Nearly half of people in England and Wales have not seen a uniformed police officer on foot in their area in the last year, according to a survey by Ipsos Mori.

The findings, released today (28 December), are disappointing but come as no surprise given that 20,000 police officers plus support staff have been lost during the ‘austerity years’ since 2010.

PFEW General Secretary Andy Fittes said: “If police forces have less then inevitably the public gets less. There is no getting away from the fact that we simply do not have the resources to patrol as we once would have done. Police chiefs are having to prioritise things like terrorism and public events and to ensure that critical incidents such as responding to 999 calls are dealt with.”

12,662 people were questioned by Ipsos Mori on behalf of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services about their perceptions of crime, safety and local policing. The proportion who said they had not seen a uniformed officer in their area was 44% this year- up from 41% in 2016 and 36% in 2015. 12% said they had not seen uniformed personnel in a vehicle in the past year.

Mr Fittes added: “Less than a quarter of the calls which officers respond to are actually about crime – much of it is dealing with mental ill health and social work and picking up the pieces that other services are unable to deal with. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has also previously warned about the demise of neighbourhood policing and the critical part it can play in preventing crime and it is an absolute travesty that the service has been run into the ground because ultimately it is the public who suffer.”

A report detailing the survey findings notes that public sentiment around police visibility “can be strong and have a significant bearing on broader attitudes to policing and local safety". It said: "Regular local uniformed police presence remains important for participants.”
The research also found a marked increase in confidence in the police to provide protection during a terrorist attack. Over half (55%) said that they would be "very" or "fairly" confident in police dealing with such an incident, compared with 46% in 2016.

HM inspector Matt Parr said: "After a year in which the emergency services have faced some of the most challenging incidents in recent times, it is encouraging to see that the public's confidence in the police to protect them against terrorism has increased markedly."

In other findings:

  • Three in 10 (30%) considered crime and anti-social behaviour to be a big problem in their local area - a five percentage point increase since 2015.
  • Just over half (53%) were satisfied with the police - similar to last year when the percentage was 52%.
  • The proportion who said the service provided by local police has got worse increased to a quarter (25%) from 20% in 2016.
  • The main responsibilities for policing were identified as responding in person to emergencies, tackling crime of all types and countering terrorism and extremism.
  • Most participants associated policing with positive attributes, while twice as many who expressed a view would speak highly about their local force as would be critical.
  • While more than four-fifths of participants felt it was important to have a regular uniformed police presence, only 17% believed they had this locally.
  • The proportion who said they had not seen a uniformed officer in their area was 44% this year- up from 41% in 2016 and 36% in 2015.
  • The percentage saying they had not seen uniformed personnel in a vehicle in the past year was lower, at 12%.
  • The survey of 12,662 people was carried out by Ipsos MORI for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services to gauge perceptions of crime, safety and local policing.