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Police spidergram figures are 'crude'

PUBLISHED: 05:50 20 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

SUFFOLK'S new chief constable has branded latest performance figures which label the county's force as one of the country's best as "crude."

Alastair McWhirter said new Police Performance Monitors, published yesterday by the Home Office, did not reflect true policing.

SUFFOLK'S new chief constable has branded latest performance figures which label the county's force as one of the country's best as "crude."

Alastair McWhirter said new Police Performance Monitors, published yesterday by the Home Office, did not reflect true policing.

The figures, presented as controversial "spidergrams," measure the success of forces based on five factors, including crime numbers, detection levels and fear of crime among the general public.

They rate Suffolk, Gwent, Northumbria and Dyfed-Powys as the four best-performing forces in the country. Suffolk's neighbouring force in Cambridge was categorised as among the eight worst.

"We have been told that we are one of two forces that are better than the average in every area. However, these tables are a fairly crude measure of activity," said Mr McWhirter.

"Policing is about much more than that. But having just come into the force, I am trying very hard to make sure we keep the performance up. I have been lucky coming to a county where the force is currently doing well. The difficulty will be to try and maintain that level of performance."

Mr McWhirter said his aim was to make Suffolk the safest county to live in, but added that a disproportionate fear of crime in public minds was an issue which needed tackling.

"We can do as much as possible to reassure people, through a visible police presence, for example. But there are certain factors we cannot control," he said.

"We have got to work hard to make sure people have a realistic view of the fear of crime. One of the things that is important is to spread the message that people should look after both their property and themselves.

"To make Suffolk the country's safest county, I also have to develop initiatives already in place while making sure staff are given the tools they need to be able to do the job."

Mr McWhirter said these future plans to make Suffolk Constabulary the country's leader would depend on this year's budget, due to be decided on Friday.

"The budget will be a telling factor for me. If we are given the budget we have proposed, we will be able to continue to develop."

In the new police performance monitors, Essex will be compared to the similar forces of Avon and Somerset, Bedfordshire, Hampshire, Kent, Sussex, Thames Valley and Warwickshire.

And when it comes to reducing crime, in 20001/2002 Essex performed better than the average score for the group - the number of burglaries (8.2), vehicle crimes (12.8) and robberies (0.6) for every 1,000 residents was significantly lower.

That year, its performance in investigating crime, promoting public safety, public satisfaction and workdays lost for both officers and civilians was about average for the group.

The "spidergrams", which cost the Home Office £70,000 to develop, show how well each police force is doing compared with similar forces elsewhere in England and Wales.

The new method of measuring performance makes it impossible to create a national league table of forces, something which chief constables have opposed for years.

Home Office police minister John Denham said the diagrams would be used to point to areas of police performance which could be looked at by the Police Standards Unit and police inspectors.

Much of the data used to compile the diagrams has already been published, such as in the British Crime Survey.

To construct a diagram for each force, it was placed in a group with its "most similar forces" based on shared characteristics such as population density and geographical area.

The Government last night rejected suggestions that the public would be confused by new diagrams designed to show their local police force's performance and that it would do little to improve the public's understanding of policing.


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