Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa, launched a countywide consultation between August 2017 and July 2018 which recorded the views of 3,203 residents. The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office does this regularly.
The feedback was collected through website interviews and face-to-face interviews at policing roadshows and community events (as part of the Listening to You programme). The responses show that 86.4% of the small number of Derbyshire people who completed the survey (2767 people) feel “very safe” or “fairly safe”. “More than half” said they felt very safe or fairly safe walking alone in their area after dark; the gender split of this is not revealed in the statement. The responses of the 3203 survey responders have been scaled up. This means that the number of responders and responses has been multiplied until it equals the population of the area. The claim is then made, through use of percentages instead of numbers of individuals, that these responses provided by 3203 people, reflect the views of the 1,049,000 (2017 estimate) Derbyshire residents.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner are promoting this as 9 out of 10 Derbyshire residents feeling safe.
The Commissioner said that while he was pleased to see so much positive feedback, he was keen to look at areas ripe for improvement. In particular, he said, he wanted to know how feelings of safety could be improved after dark. He added that while this has long been the case, he was asking the Chief Constable what action could be taken to improve matters.
With current policing levels, the introduction of low light blue LED lighting in some areas, and the reduced number of streetlights in operation, it seems unlikely that fear after dark, especially of women walking alone, would be easy to address without additional funding.
The survey also revealed the crimes that these 3203 local people fear most, with 53.8% of interviewees (1723 people) admitting to feeling worried about becoming a victim of fraud or identify theft while 53.2% (1704 people) said they were very worried or fairly worried about having their vehicle stolen or vandalised.
Fears about burglary are also high with 52.9% of 3203 (1694 people) either very worried or fairly worried about their homes being broken into. In comparison, only 29.5% (945 people) were very worried or fairly worried about being caught up in a terrorist attack.
The survey recorded crimes which respondents had experienced personally in the past 12 months, and also asked whether residents believed local police were dealing with the issues that mattered to their communities.
Confidence in police was down from 74.8% (2017, from a different pool of responders)to 62.2% (1992 people) thinking that police were “definitely or probably dealing with the issues that mattered”. 51.1% (1637 people) thought the force was “doing a good job”. This is down from 63.2% in 2017, from a different pool of responders.
Commenting on the results of the small survey, Mr Dhindsa said: “On the whole people feel safe in Derbyshire and are satisfied with the service local police provide and that is reassuring given the continued underinvestment from central government which has led to widespread cuts.
“This year, we will continue to focus on increasing visibility in our neighbourhood policing teams and building up our depleted frontline to respond to the problems that matter to local people. Technology will continue to play its part, helping us to create a more agile workforce that ensures officers are accessible when needed.
“Since the period of austerity began we have lost 800 officers and staff and are communities are bearing the brunt with fewer resources available to investigate and prevent crime. Those officers who remain are working exceptionally hard to maintain Derbyshire’s place as one of the safest counties in the country but will be of no surprise that demand continues to exceed capacity.
“I will continue to fight for the funding we need to do the job. Policing is only as good as its people and I’m determined to ensure our hardworking officers receive the reinforcements they need to make a difference.”
The Office of the PCC claims that the survey gathered the views of residents from across Derbyshire and from different age groups and backgrounds, although the particulars of appropriate representation have not been detailed in public information to assess if it could be considered representative. A total of 1,360 surveys were completed face to face while 1,843 were completed on the PCC’s website.
It is important to remember that scaled up survey are rarely representative of the whole they claim to speak for. In this case 3203 people have spoken for over a million, and those million may disagree. The format of the survey might affect results, because if the questions were multiple choice, there is little room for genuine response when the available answers control the potential outcomes. Psychological issues such as wanting to be kind to the nice policeperson conducting the interview also need to be factored in, as do the possibility of argumentative people being extra negative online due to personal experiences. Scaled up surveys are common now, but are not scientific, accurate, and can be problematic in many ways, especially in regards to accurate representation of the varied population.