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Re-thinking the 'fall' in crime

Professor Marian FitzGeraldMarian FitzGerald, Visiting Professor of Criminology at the University, has challenged the new Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to oversee a cultural shift in the way the police detect and record crime.

In a speech delivered on 2 May at a Police Foundation seminar at All Souls College Oxford, Professor FitzGerald said that PCCs held the key to shaping a new culture based on the police proactively looking for crime.

Professor FitzGerald told her audience - including a number of Chief Constables as well as civil servants and other academics - that a preoccupation with reducing crime figures year-on-year had meant that the official crime figures had largely excluded new types of crime.

This meant the previous Labour government had taken the credit for a 'fall in crime' based mainly on traditional forms of crime - even though these were already in decline when it came to office in 1997.

Professor FitzGerald said: 'The police service has been driven for nearly 15 years by the imperative to demonstrate year-on-year reductions in crime. So it has developed a mindset which is resistant to recognising new types of crime (such as card fraud and the many scams perpetrated over the internet) and it has been more than happy for the Home Office to absolve it of taking any responsibility for them.

'Yet proactive police work in some forces, using the internet and social media, is uncovering large amounts of unreported crime. Importantly, this approach could also prevent crimes by detecting them while they were still in preparation.'

Professor FitzGerald also argued that PCCs now ‘effectively hold the key to whether the police can achieve the cultural shift which the service and the public need'.

She said: 'They would find this challenging for several reasons. In particular, if the police began proactively looking for crime in a way that they've been inhibited from doing for nearly 15 years, this would inevitably increase the official crime figures. Yet PCCs have been elected with a mandate to reduce crime still further.'

Professor FitzGerald is a Visiting Professor within the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.


Story published at 11:26am 3 May 2013

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Last Updated: 23/05/2013