Community justice, communication and confidence

The previous Labour Government put confidence at the heart of policing, and there was much guidance and advice for police forces on what they should do. This included the words from Louise Casey who theorised that the public wanted to see justice being done to those criminals operating in their communities. But Greater Manchester Police wanted to know from their communities whether this was the case. A survey based on a specific case of a prolific burglar in North Manchester was carried out. The aim was to find out whether it had an impact on public confidence and fear of crime either positive or negative.

The individual that was at the centre of the publicity had committed a string of burglaries in the North Manchester area during three months in early 2009. He was sentenced in July 2009 to two years in prison. As part of the work to keep the public up-to-date with events in their area posters and leaflets publicising his conviction and sentenced were produced and circulated. The circulation was limited to the areas where the burglar was known to have worked.

Questionnaires were conducted face-to-face with residents in the six streets that were most affected by his criminal activity. Police Community Support Officers knocked on every door in the streets in the two months after the publicity for the conviction had been carried out. Almost one in four people approached provided feedback to make the questionnaire results more statistically valid.

But what did the results show us?

For what was a small-scale distribution of posters and leaflets, it had a significant impact with 74 per cent of those replying being aware of the sentencing. They were then asked how the leaflet made them feel.

Table 1 – How the leaflet made respondents feel
Feeling Number of respondents Percentage of respondents Positive vs. negative %
Safe 54 59% 81%
Reassured 20 22%
Concerned 6 7% 9%
Worried 2 2%
Nothing 13 14%

It was clear there was an overwhelmingly positive response to the leaflet at 81 per cent feeling safe or reassured. Their reasons when asked included because there was an offender off the streets, it was knowledge of what the police and courts are doing, and it was reassuring to know an offender had been caught.

When they were asked if they wanted to know about sentences for offenders in their area, 84 per cent said they would like to know.  However, while this had a positive impact on the way it made people feel we also wanted to know if had an impact on their confidence in the local police.

Table 3 – The impact the conviction had on confidence in local police
Level of impact Number of respondents Percentage of respondents Positive vs. negative %
Much more positive 65 71% 87%
Slightly more positive 15 16%
No impact 7 8%
Slightly more negative 1 1% 2%
Much more negative 1 1%
Don’t know 2 2%

Again the results were clear that there was an increase in confidence in the police. And when asked if the details of the conviction had increased fear of crime 82 per cent said it had not increased their concern.

Prolific burglar poster

The survey results were then validated with feedback from other areas where the same community justice updates were circulated. It was clear that it was something the public wanted and more importantly it had a positive impact on them and their views of policing.

And the public views had a direct impact on the communication that Greater Manchester Police undertake. Community justice posters and publicity are now considered for all such prolific offender cases. Yes, it requires legal checks and balances to be in place, there has to be guidance and a way to monitor how it is being used. However, the starting point is to publicise the details in a very local and target way, and only to withhold on this if there is a real reason not to.

Local people had spoken and we listened and took action. The result was communication that became responsive, relevant and more importantly right for those people.

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