Local Papers and crime data

A fear of violent crime is a common enough headlines so it is understandable that the public should have questions about the effectiveness of British law enforcement.

Since the FOIA, it has been possible to request figures about crime and policing and many local newspapers are doing just that.  The Sunderland Echo made an FOI request to Northumbria Police asking for the number of sex assault reports.  On 27 September it reported:  “From January 2006 to July 2008, detectives in the city received 669 reports of sexually-motivated attacks” That is a sex assault every other day, although: “There is nothing to suggest Sunderland has a worse problem than other UK cities.”

Numbers released to the Worcester News under the FOIA show that: “The number of people in south Worcestershire given a police caution for violent crimes has risen from 306 in 2004/5 to 566 in 2007/8.   The sharpest increase is in the number of cautions for actual bodily harm”.

The 26 September edition also contains a comment on this story: “One solicitor we have spoken to makes it clear he believes the increase in the number of police cautions is a matter of finance, though the police deny this.  The cost of bringing a thug to justice should not be a factor.  Decent, law-abiding people want to see justice being done.”

These articles show why FOI is useful as it helps the public more accurately gauge crime in their area and what police are doing about it. Through public oversight, the police are able to earn the trust they deserve.  That is not simply because justice is done but because “decent, law-abiding people” see it done.

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