Leaders: Police must work to regain the public’s confidence

Picture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin
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For anyone who’s tried and failed to get the police interested in investigating a crime, the latest statistics from the Scottish Government are unlikely to come as much of a surprise.

According to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS), just 38 per cent of crimes were reported to the police in 2014-15.

While the publication offers little commentary on why the overall reporting rate is down (from 53 per cent in 1999), it found the most common reasons for non-reporting were that the victim felt the police could not have done anything (36 per cent) or that the incident was too trivial or not worth reporting (32 per cent).

But surely some part of the fall must come from the public’s realisation that officers are often too busy to investigate anything but the most serious of offences.

Incredibly, just 44 per cent of violent crime was reported to the police last year, while the figure for property crime was even lower (36 per cent). According to the SCJS, there were an estimated 688,000 crimes against adults living in private households, with 502,000 of these property crimes and 186,000 violent crimes.

Much has been made of Scotland’s falling crime rate which – in line with the rest of the western world – has been moving steadily downwards in recent years. Yet that picture is significantly undermined if the majority of victims are choosing not to report offences to Police Scotland.

The waters are further muddied by the surge in cybercrime, which is poorly recorded and often goes unreported by those on the receiving end.

Another worrying find by the SCJS is that confidence in the police appears to be falling.

A total of 58 per cent said the police were doing a good or excellent job in their local area, down slightly from 61 per cent in 2012-13.

Meanwhile, 70 per cent of people had confidence in the police to investigate incidents, down from 72 per cent in 2012-13, and 66 per cent had confidence in police to deal with incidents, down from 69 per cent. A further 64 per cent had confidence in the police to respond quickly, down from 66 per cent.

After being unveiled as Police Scotland’s new chief constable earlier this year, Phil Gormley called for a “grown-up conversation” about the service his force could be expected to deliver. Police Scotland needs to make savings totalling £1.1 billion by 2026. At some point that will mean priorities will need to be re-assessed. The “grown-up” discussion Mr Gormley refers to needs to happen now.

If we are to get our money’s worth out of our national police force, then we need to let officers know the sort of crimes we still expect to see investigated.

While public confidence in Police Scotland remains high, yesterday’s figures suggest many people have lost faith that the police will be able to do anything to help them.

That is a worrying state of affairs and something which needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.