Written evidence submitted by M.K Denney (POP0079)

Written Evidence Submission to the Home Affairs Committee  


  1. Introduction  

1.1. I am an International Relations Student at the University of Exeter; I have no links to any pressure groups, and I am interested in the policing priorities inquiry because of its importance to public safety. This inquiry into policing priorities has a broad range of scope. I shall be focusing on the balance between preventing and solving crime. I have chosen to focus on this aspect of the inquiry because I feel that readdressing the balance of preventing and solving crime is the most fundamental priority of current policing and correcting this balance will be the most effective way to restore trust in the police. 


  1. Executive summary  

2.1. I shall first identify that trust in the police is so low by looking at the historical perspective of policing and exploring the identity and role of the police.  I will show that the police have become too distant and instead should focus on preventative local policing to give the public confidence. The way I suggest for increasing public trust is through foot patrols as this reduces the fear of crime, engages the local community, and can help gather evidence for solving crime.  

2.2. I shall be using recent statistics, but the majority of the literature I shall use will be from 2000-2010 because this is when the bulk of research and literature about policing took place.  


  1. The historical perspective  

3.1. Crime is currently not at its highest level, it rose in the 1980s and 1990s and peaked in 1995, this included violent crime and firearm offences peaking in 2006 with 11,000 cases compared to 2022 with 6,000 cases (Office for National Statistics: October

2022). There has been periods of rioting in the past, such as in Bristol 1980 (Brain 2010: 53-56) and major police failings and scandals such as the failure to catch the

Yorkshire ripper quickly and the Hillsborough disaster (Brain 2010: 61-63, 151155).  

3.2. Yet “the number of victims who didn’t support evidence rose from 8.7% in 2015 to 26.5% in 2022” (Home Office 2022) Therefore, there has been reduced support and trust in the police while crime has been falling. This means the lack of trust can’t be from high crime as crime is not at its highest, and police scandals and failings have happened before, demonstrating that police scandals alone don’t reduce public trust in the police.  

3.3. However, over time policing has become less local and preventative and “more distant and impersonal” (Terpstra, Salet and Fyfe 2022: 13). This highlights that the police, and the public are becoming more distant from each other (McLaughlin 2007: 220). “The public tend to express their needs simply – a visible presence, a familiar face, a prompt response” (Povey 2001: 168). As policing has become less local, this in turn has meant that the police have become less known in local communities and thus have reduced trust in the police. The police has become opaquer to the public, making it less friendly, approachable, and local, making it more difficult for the public to trust the police. 


  1. Who should the Police be and what should they do? 

4.1. “In early days the parish constable was simply a citizen on duty” (Banton 2005:135), with Robert Peel saying, “the public are the police, and the police are the public” (Lentz and Chaires 2007:73). While a modern police constable has more powers than a regular citizen (Joyce 2011: 47-51) it does show that the police must be seen as citizens of the community, rather than outsiders.  

4.2. “The police officer’s uniform signals them out as a person who must accept responsibility when asked” (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 470). The police are members of the public who have been given uniform and responsibility in order to provide the public order and security required. This shows policing is about providing security for the community as a whole, and the police must be attuned to the public to be effective.  

4.3. For the police to be successful they rely on public support, as they come into contact with them every day (Coatman 1959: 152-153,164). This shows the police must not become distant or removed from the public, as they themselves are also the public.

This doesn’t mean that the police have no extra powers, but rather the police should “see arrest as a means to an end, not an end in itself” (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 466), the police should be focused on more than simply arresting people, as they should be providing order and security for the community as a whole.    


  1. The need for local, preventative policing methods 

5.1. The police need to invest in local preventative policing by using foot patrols. This is because it makes people feel safer and more secure (Reiner 2010: 149), this is

known as ‘reassurance’ policing where the aim is to reduce the fear of crime” (Maguire and John 2006: 75) and feeling safer in one’s own area would lead to increased trust in the police, as the police as seen to be doing their job of providing security.  

5.2. Foot patrol can provide “a beneficial impact on the communal sense of security and order” (Reiner 2010: 149). This is because police officers can do more than arrest people for crimes. They can engage with local people by talking to and listening to local residents about their worries and “pacify situations of potential conflict” (Bayley 2005: 142). If it is difficult for foot patrol to cover the large expanse of land in rural areas, bicycles or horses could be used as a means of transport instead, as this would have similar effects of foot patrol but would cover the areas in between people faster.  

5.3. As “Public reassurance requires more than just increased police number” (Millie and Herrington 2005: 44) the way the police engage is key to reducing fear of crime, as a presence alone won’t fully reduce the fear in crime, as the police can still seem distant if mostly seen in cars. Therefore, foot patrols are better than vehicle patrols because foot patrols reduces the “physical barrier” between the public and the police (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 465), making foot patrol better at achieving the object of reassurance policing, as it allows the police to better angage with the public 

5.4. “When residents think violent crime is on the rise, they modify their behaviour accordingly” (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 463). This shows that fear of crime is highly important in addition to the level of crime that actually takes place. This is demonstrated by “communities saying anti-social behaviour is of higher significance than crime” (Maguire and John 2006: 76) showing the police can restore trust by creating a safer atmosphere. “To a defenceless person different types of confrontation are often indistinguishable” (Wilson and Kelling 2005:463), because the sense of an unknown danger from confrontation may force a defenceless person to cross the road, or not go out at all because of fear. In these instances where the public modify their behaviour crime may not go up, but only because the public don’t go out, rather than because there are less criminals.  Police foot patrols, therefore, are not purely designed to reduce crime, but are there to make residents feel safe. If the public, feel safe they won’t feel as vulnerable and as a result they won’t modify their behaviour. They will therefore gain a more positive view of the police (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 460), because they feel the police are allowing them to go out without fear. 

5.5. The police can also stop disorderly and anti-social behaviour before it needs arrest.

“A gang can form, recruit and congregate without breaking the law” (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 468), but by having regular foot patrols this can be identified. This demonstrates the need “for dedicated officers to an area” (Millie and Herrington 2005: 51) as they would be able to identify these behaviour patterns and know the area well. It is important that officers maintain the standards and order of an area as anti-social behaviour such as “graffiti shows that the space is uncontrolled and uncontrollable” (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 464), which makes the public feel unsafe as the police are not enforcing the standards and laws of society effectively.

Therefore, foot patrols can help to stop crime taking place by intervening early, which cuts crime and makes the public feel safe. 



  1. Why preventive foot patrols helps the police to solve crime.  

6.1. Investing in the prevention of crime, “is the best way to reduce the demand” for solving it (Kirby 2013:171). Foot patrols therefore can help in the solving of crime by reducing the amount of crime happening in the first place, particularly in regard to anti-social behaviour. Simply spending more money doesn’t mean more crimes will be solved as shown in the 1980s (Brain 2010: 156), but instead it is important to use resources in an efficient way by “targeting an intelligence led approach with visible controls” (Millie and Herrington 2005: 47). The police therefore can use foot patrols to reduce the fear of crime, while helping reduce the workload on solving crime, showing foot patrols to be beneficial in multiple areas.  

6.2. Intelligence led policing is crucial as “the public want more than just bobbies on the beat” (Maguire and John 2006: 78-79). “A large amount of crime is generated by a small number of people” (Maguire and John 2006: 70) meaning that “proactive tactics can be used to gather evidence that disrupt their activities” (Maguire and John 2006: 80). This means instead of responding to crime, the police can be gathering evidence and linking cases together while out on foot patrols. This helps to stop crime happening and if crime happens, the police will have more evidence at their disposal, meaning that investigations can be quickly and accurately solved, and this will increase public confidence in the police to solve crime.  


  1. Conclusion and Recommendations  

7.1. To ensure that the police reduces the fear of crime they must prioritise reassurance policing through foot patrols. The police must give designated officers to each area so that police officers become known within the community and know the community themselves, which will restore trust in the police.  

7.2. To address concerns regarding community standards and anti-social behaviour the police must “see arrest as a means to end” (Wilson and Kelling 2005: 466) with the focus on maintaining order. This will increase trust in the police, as the police will be seen as part of the public as opposed to outsiders. 

7.3. To reduce the strain on solving crime the police must use intelligence led policing when on foot patrols as this will help to disrupt criminal networks. Foot patrol officers should be trained in collecting and cataloguing evidence which should be shared with detectives. This will speed up the solving of cases, making the public feel the police is efficient and effective, and so restoring public trust.  



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Banton, M. (2005) ‘The police as peace officers’, in Newburn, T. (ed.) Policing Key Readings. 

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Brain, T. (2010) A History of Policing In England And Wales From 1974 A Turbulent Journey. Oxford: Oxford University Press 


Coatman, J. (1959) Police. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 


Home Office (2022) Official statistics: Crime outcomes in England and Wales 2021-2022. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/crime-outcomes-in-englandhttps://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/crime-outcomes-in-england-and-wales-2021-to-2022/crime-outcomes-in-england-and-wales-2021-to-2022andwales-2021-to-2022/crime-outcomes-in-england-and-wales-2021-to-2022 (Accessed: 14

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Millie, A. and Herrington, V. (2005) ‘Bridging the Gap: Understanding Reassurance Policing’, The Howard Journal, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp.41-56. 


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Reiner, R. (2010) The Politics of the Police. 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 


Terpstra, J., Salet, R. and Fyfe, N. R. (2022) ‘Abstract Police Organisations: Distantiation

Decontextualisation and Digitalisation’, in Verhage, A., Easton, M. and De Kimpe, S. (eds.) Policing in Smart Societies Reflections on the Abstract Police. London: Palgrave Macmillian, pp. 9-26. 


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  November 2022