In January I commented on the launch on Wiltshire Constabulary’s website of maps showing crime levels. Now, less than ten months later, they’ve launched new maps’ nationally, showing exactly the same statistics. What do these maps tell us? Mainly, that the police are adept at wasting taxpayers money. These maps have, apparently taken months of work, yet are worse cartographically than those they replace. As shown in the screen shot below, the maps are very rough, with gaps and overlaps between reporting areas. And if you’re not using Internet Explorer then sorry, these maps aren’t for you. So that’s months of work to deliver a poorer product than they had ten months ago.
It’s disappointing but no surprise that the comedy double act Ross & Field are once more doing their bit to ensure that Swindon is a less secure place to live. Mr Ross, it would appear, believes that people should not be held responsible for their own addictions.
He said Burrows tried to buy methadone illegally on the streets but eventually reverted to heroin and had to offend to fund the habit. Urging the court not to impose a jail term, he said: “The offence was committed out of desperation, desperation through no fault of his own.”
If a compulsive gambler hasn’t won the lottery yet, it’s not their fault. Would Mr Ross be happy for them to burgle his house to make up for the money they haven’t won? (If he could claim the legal fees for defending them, quite possibly.)
Whatever happened to investigative journalism? According to the Adver’s editor, his journalists ‘give the news a dose of perspective.’ Not when they’re reporting police statistics they don’t. Yesterday, they reported a police survey of crime concerns in Pinehurst. It wasn’t the most comprehensive survey.
Officers surveyed people living in the Tree Courts area following a three month long crackdown on crime and antisocial behaviour. More than 50 questionnaires concerning crime issues were sent to homes in the area.
Tree Courts is just a small part of Pinehurst, but the Adver didn’t let that fact get in the way of the headline.
Pinehurst people feel safe – survey
That this was a small unrepresentative survey went uncommented upon by the Adver’s journalist, though not by their readers.
84% people who responded said they felt safe where they lived.
Looks impressive, except that only 38 of 55 surveys were returned, and no indication is given of how many answered each question. So, to put some of the Adver’s percentages into numbers of people, at most:
- 32 people said they felt safe where they lived;
- 18 people felt antisocial behaviour had decreased as a result of the police operation;
- 24 people were happy with the multi games use area opened in July.
Presented like that, the survey results look much less impressive.
It’s nice to see that, at last, on appeal one of judge Douglas Field’s notorious lenient sentences has been overturned and a criminal gaoled. In a judgement that the people of Swindon have become familiar with, Mr Field allowed someone with a very long and ignoble history to walk away from court with a suspended sentence described as a ‘final chance’. With 38 previous convictions for over 130 offences, the time for chance should be thoroughly in the past.
One of the more frustrating aspects of reading reports of proceedings at Swindon Crown Court in the Adver is the double act of Mr Field as judge and Mr Ross as defence lawyer and the incredibly lenient sentences that result. It’s a well known double act, widely commented on, though not in the pages of the Adver where comments are not allowed on their reports of court proceedings. I don’t usually bother to comment on these reports — it would get monotonous — but the comments from Mr Field reported today just beggar belief.
Judge Field quizzed prosecutors at Swindon Crown Court. “Why are these two charged with affray, which has a maximum sentence of three years rather than actual bodily harm which carries a maximum of five years?” he said.
With a comment like that you’d think he was about to hand down a stiff sentence, something close to the maximum he could perhaps? Err… no. Just 36 weeks… suspended, 200 hours unpaid community work and £250 compensation to the victim. That’s more like a single word than a sentence.
Now, I appreciate that the government’s sentencing guidelines don’t help, but with buffoonery like this it’s not surprising that the judiciary is held in such low regard.
I’ve been looking at the new maps of reported crime on Wiltshire Constabulary’s website. What have I learnt? I’ve been reminded of the public sector’s inability to produce good interactive sites — the only way to get the maps to show different statistics is to repeatedly toggle their display on and off, and navigation is painfully slow — but have learnt very little about crime levels.
I’m left wondering just what the statistics cover. For example, there is, according to the maps, very little violent crime in Swindon Town Centre, so does that mean that the drunken violence in Fleet Street that is so often reported in the press is not significant, or is in some other category? There’s nothing on the Wiltshire police website that explains, and the explanation on the Home Office website is less than helpful. Then there’s the matter of how much reported crime actually gets recorded….
It may not have cost much (though given the record of public sector computing projects, I doubt that) but I’d rather the time and money wasted on producing these uninformative maps was spent on actual policing.
Reading an Adver story headlined ‘Police get hard on knife crime’ my reaction isn’t one of relief nor of wondering why it took so long. I’m more puzzled as to how it got to the point where they need to ‘get hard’ in the first place — though as all they are doing is applying the law it is more a case of getting normal.
The impression I get of the police in Swindon, and no doubt elsewhere, is that they are constantly shifting resources from one government so-called initiative — of which this is the latest — to another. So rather than a steady effort on a range of issues, keeping them all under reasonable control, there is a stop-start approach, with some types of criminality being almost ignored until they reach a point where the politicians pick them as their latest headline-grabbing crime-reduction priority. Concentrated police campaigns have their uses but not when, as often seems to happen, they divert a lot of resource away from what is essential everyday policing.
The present position is a good news story for Wiltshire which remains not just a beautiful County but one of the very safest places in which to live and work, with a police service that continues to improve and, in a number of areas is viewed as being at the cutting edge of modern policing.
Apparently ‘cutting edge’ means being incapable enforcing a dispersal order, and not having adequate back-up support for police-on-the-cheap (a.k.a. PCSOs). Let us hope it never descends to less than cutting edge. To quote the first recommendation of the report on Wiltshire Police by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary.
That the force continues to build capability among its Neighbourhood Policing teams, including a clear vision of how the teams can ensure that their work – while maintaining focus on neighbourhood priorities – is closely integrated with the force strategy for the reduction and detection of volume crime.
The force clearly has a long way yet to go.