The challenge of policing London in 2020

The RSA also argues that the evolution of policing is also being driven by the rise of complex crime that will require more of the Met’s time, skill and resource unless the service, its partners and the public embrace a more preventative approach and focus on risk reduction.

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Policing a global city in 2020

A major new report on the future policing of London was published earlier this month (15 October 2015): Safer Together: Policing a global city in 2020.

The RSA was commissioned by the Metropolitan Police  to look at how the service could adaptRSA safer together front cover to the many changes and challenges it will face over the next five years and more. The report is based on a large scale consultation exercise with 500 of the most senior Met officers and others throughout the service and a consultation involving more than seventy external organisations.

Safer Together presents an ambitious set of proposals with the intention of generating a public conversation about the future of London’s safety.

The report is of such scale and significance that I am covering it into two posts. Today’s post sets out the report’s views of the challenges facing London and the Met, tomorrow’s looks at the proposed solutions.

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Coping with the cuts

Keeping Londoners safe is a matter not just for the police but a wide range of other public bodies, all of which will have to deliver their remits with substantially less resources over the next five years than at any time in recent memory. The report argues that to effectively deploy shrinking resources, the Met and its partners must engage in new collaborative initiatives, set out in tomorrow’s post.

But the size and range of the challenge ahead is daunting.

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Increasing pressures

The RSA is keen to emphasise that the role of the police is much wider than tackling crime – over 80% calls to the police related to non-crime related incidents and 42% of these are resolved over the phone.

The report identifies a wide range of increasing pressures on the Met:

  • Much police work is not reflected in official statistics – a recent report from the College of Policing found that the majority of 1m
    reported incidents of domestic abuse and 2.3m reported incidents relating to anti-social behaviour do not result in recorded crimes. In fact, anti-social behaviour orders only came into effect in 1999, creating a huge new category of work for the police.
  • The increase in the reporting of crimes of sexual violence also requires a huge investment of police time with cases typically taking 18 months between being reported and coming to court.
  • The changes in attitudes to domestic abuse mean that it is increasingly (and rightly) seen as a criminal issue.
  • We do not yet have clear expectations on the police role in tackling cybercrime; recent ONS figures estimated that there were up to 5.1m incidents of online fraud involving 3.8 million victims in the past 12 months. Just over half involved some initial financial loss to the victims but more than 62% were compensated in full.

Of course, there has also been a very significant and prolonged fall in a number of more “traditional” crimes such as real world (i.e. not online) theft from individuals, burglary, joy-riding and the theft of cars. However, the whole way in which the Met is organised is designed to tackle crime patterns and social issues which are changing at an ever-increasing speed.

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Understanding and responding to demand

Like other police forces, the Met struggles to comprehend fully the nature of demand for service. This is particularly true of incidents that fall between services, such as mental health and personal and public safety, where the Met is obligated to respond. The RSA also argues that the evolution of policing is also being driven by the rise of complex crime that will require more of the Met’s time, skill and resource unless the service, its partners and the public embrace a more preventative approach and focus on risk reduction.

Of course, a different approach would require new ways of working and new skills.

Tomorrow’s post explores the RSA’s vision of what this different approach should be.

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How to police London in 2020

Without public agencies, local authorities and London’s communities sharing the burden through deep collaboration, the RSA says that there is a real risk that London’s safety and security will be undermined. The report argues that the worst (but easily foreseeable) outcome
is that public services dump cost and responsibility on one another in response to resource constraints.

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