PUBLISHED: 13:57 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 08:51 02 June 2010

Julie Spence

Julie Spence

By JULIE SPENCE Chief Constable Cambridgeshire I COULD not help but be struck by the media coverage involving the police over the past few days.

Last week saw the usual debate as experts sought to interpret trends in the most recently published quarterly


Chief Constable


I COULD not help but be struck by the media coverage involving the police over the past few days.

Last week saw the usual debate as experts sought to interpret trends in the most recently published quarterly crime figures.

Was crime up or down, had violent crime been recorded properly, and what were the influencing factors behind the numbers and the percentages?

Once again it was reported that Cambridgeshire was among 18 forces which had been asked to recount violent crime figures.

This was not, as widely suggested, because forces had been trying to make violent crime look less than it was. The confusion came after a national reclassification of the way certain categories of violence were recorded, a matter of ticking the right box.

In ticking what was apparently the wrong box we had, if anything, made the numbers of most serious violent crime look worse than in fact it was.

The fact is that all violent crime was recorded and investigated. Nothing was swept under the carpet.

To make the debate even more complex for people which statistics should be seen as most reliable; those from the British Crime Survey which relies on a tried and tested interview method, or incidents recorded as they happen by police forces?

Confusing isn't it?

No wonder some tend to dismiss statistics as irrelevant, while others see them as the only true reflection of performance.

But what I found interesting was how the coverage of the statistical debate followed hard on the heels of other events which also made the headlines.

A 17 year-old who slashed the face of a 19-year-old to ribbons in Cambridgeshire was jailed for six years.

A man who raped a woman in our county was jailed for five years, and animal rights protesters who conducted a frightening campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences and those who had dealings with the company were jailed for up to 11 years.

There is no link between the cases and neither am I about to make any comparisons or judgements between the sentences.

The thought which came to me was that the outcomes were all as a result of good police work, the rape conviction made possible by our new, dedicated Sexual Investigations Unit.

And then I wondered whether you, the public, saw them as more or less significant than the columns of dull and often baffling figures.

Or whether you had actually made any connection between what officers do on a day to day basis and the figures you're actually hearing.

In their own way, both statistics and the headlines from court, give an indication of the job that the police service is doing.

Yet, as I have said before, I believe that many people will see such matters as having little bearing on their lives.

Albeit I recognise that just now knowing crime has just gone up or down may impact on you and your confidence. I need to understand, what triggers those feelings of confidence, whether it's actually the statistics saying crime is going up by 20% or 30% or 40% or the offences themselves. In reality 20, 30 and 40 percent rises, are really only 2, 3 and 4 crimes.

I believe you're more likely to be concerned with what's actually happening in your community, that has an impact on your daily routine and whether or not we respond properly to your requests and demands.

In fact what you see outside your front door is what impacts on your confidence and that's at the heart of what our neighbourhood teams try and manage daily in the way that they plan their work.

Are we answering your calls quickly, are we giving you all the information you need through E-Cops, neighbourhood meetings and services like crime mapping on our website?

Can we do better? I need to know that you have all the information you need to understand what's actually going on in your neighbourhoods and what we are doing about it. If you have that, hopefully you will make decisions about whether you fear crime or not and through good information you will truly understand the reality of what's actually going on where you live.

If you take the time to let us know, and we listen ever more closely and respond properly, we can make our own headlines.

They may not always be good news ¿ we do make mistakes ¿ and they may not always interest everyone.

But they might give the truest picture of how we are performing in the places where it matters to you , your home front.

Finally, and with no apology, I have again to report that numbers of drivers are still failing to heed the seatbelt and mobile phone laws.

The force's most recent day of action on the A1307 which, as most know has seen a high number of deaths, ended with 30 fixed penalty notices issued for the offences.

This is a road which safety campaigners and highways authorities have gone to enormous lengths to make safer.

The Linton by-pass itself is now restricted to 50mph. Prominent notices warn drivers that it is a high casualty route.

Some, thankfully the minority , clearly still think they know better.

Now they are being punished, and neither I nor my officers, the courts or the vast majority of law-abiding drivers will have any sympathy for them.

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