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Proactive Policing: An Evaluation of the Central Scotland Police Crime Management Model - Research Findings

DescriptionThis paper summarises results from a research project designed to review a new, and more proactive approach to policing in Central Scotland.
ISBN0 7480 5137 6
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998

Crime and Criminal Justice Research Findings No. 10 9 (1996)

Proactive Policing: An Evaluation of the Central Scotland Police Crime Management Model
Peter Amey, Chris Hale and Steve Uglow

ISBN 0-7480-5137-6 Publisher The Scottish Office Price £5.00

Scottish police forces, in common with police from most countries, have traditionally fought crime in a predominantly reactive manner - responding to calls from victims of crime, attending the scene and attempting to identify and arrest the offender. This paper summarises results from a research project designed to review a new, and more proactive approach to policing in Central Scotland.
Main findings
  • A principal aim of Central Scotland Police in introducing the new Crime Management Model was to improve the standard of service the Force provide to the public. Adopting a more proactive approach to policing enabled Central Scotland Police to make more efficient use of resources and thus facilitate the development of other objectives.
  • The survey of victims revealed that they were more satisfied with the way Central Scotland Police dealt with reported crime. This resulted from the use of computer tracking to tell victims about the progress of investigations.
  • While a period of six months is insufficient to assess changes in crime levels, early fears that the change to the new system might lead to a temporary decline in performance proved unfounded. Crime figures collected for the pilot sites before and after the introduction of the model indicated no such decline in performance.
This paper summarises results from a research project(1) designed to review a new strategy for policing in Central Scotland. This strategy, the roots of which were developing in the early 1990s,(2) was to eschew the traditional reactive style of police work and embrace instead a proactive, intelligence-led approach. The aim was to allow resources to be more effectively targeted on investigating crime and thus help achieve other objectives, especially an improvement in the quality of service provided to the public.
As the demand for police services increased during the 1980s, reactive strategies had proved ineffective and inefficient in high crime areas.(3) Crime rates rose, more and more police resources were taken up simply by going to the scene of the crime or offence and detection rates fell significantly. There was an obvious need for alternative approaches.
Crime Management Models
One of these alternatives has been the development of crime management models. The models enable greater emphasis to be given to proactive policing,(4) particularly:
  • the concentration of effort to combat particular categories of offences;
  • the targeting of specific criminally-active individuals;
  • more emphasis on crime prevention.
A pilot scheme was introduced in the Stirling and Callander Local Command Units (LCUs) in October 1994 with Clackmannan LCU being used as a control site to monitor the effects of extraneous changes.
The main characteristics of the pilot areas were:
  • the rural nature of much of the area, with consequent communication difficulties;
  • a strong sense of independence in the outstations;
  • a force philosophy of local solutions for local problems;
  • a relatively low crime rate and a good clear up rate;
  • a major concern with victim satisfaction and the force's quality of service.
Crime management in each of the two pilot LCUs involved:
  • a Tasking and Co-ordinating Group (TCG) in each LCU, comprising the senior management team of a LCU which directs all operational work and manages the resources of the LCU;
  • a Crime Management Unit (CMU) serving both LCUs and consisting of a Crime Desk and Intelligence Unit, situated at the police force HQ in Stirling. The Crime Desk deals with all reports of crime and is responsible for ensuring all reports are investigated including, where necessary, the attendance of police officers. The Intelligence Unit is central to the working of the new model. It is responsible for producing intelligence files on targets and crime trends which are forwarded to the TCG for action.
Objectives of the Central Scotland Project
In order for the innovations in Central Scotland to be accepted more widely as a viable strategy, the Project needed to show that:
  • a crime desk was an effective means of reducing reactive work. Traditionally the practice of Central Scotland Police was to visit every victim and every crime scene. The Project tested whether resources could be used more effectively by conducting a thorough investigation of a large number of minor crimes over the telephone, with officers attending only if the telephone investigation showed that this was necessary. Crimes where the scene is not visited by the police are still entered on computer and form part of the basis of crime pattern analysis.
  • the administrative burden of crime recording could be reduced through effective use of computer systems;
  • intelligence about crime was being more effectively gathered, analysed and used;
  • the new team structure reflected a difference in function and that the resources saved as a result of the crime management model were being harnessed towards force objectives;
  • crime prevention strategies were well integrated into the policing strategy and that this involved co-operation and close links with local communities;
  • the quality of service had improved.
It is important to keep in mind that the Central Scotland Police crime management model was not designed as a crimefighting approach, to be judged by arrest rates, convictions and crime figures. The Force's primary concern was to redeploy resources in order to improve the quality of its service whilst maintaining its effort against crime.
Evaluation of the new Central Scotland Policing Model
The following criteria were used to assess the model during its first six months of operation:
  • victim satisfaction
  • efficient and effective deployment of available resources
  • police job satisfaction
  • reduction in crime
A preliminary assessment was made by comparing the performances of the pilot LCU's with both that of the control site over the same period and with data from the pilot sites before implementation of the model. The assessment was based upon:
  • recorded crime data;
  • activity analysis on the control and pilot sites both before and after implementation of the model;
  • Central Scotland Police performance data for the CMU;
  • a telephone survey of victims using the CMU during the pilot period;
  • postal survey of staff on both pilot and control sites;
  • visits and discussions with staff of all ranks on the pilot sites.
The general conclusion of the report is that the model is now working relatively well but that its potential in facilitating a move to a proactive style of policing has not yet been fully realised. The main results were:
victim satisfaction
The returns from the victim survey indicate that Central Scotland Police had maintained and increased the level of satisfaction with the way in which it dealt with complaints. The use of the computer system to track and update complainants on the progress of investigations was a great success;
efficient and effective deployment of available resources
Before the introduction of the model, Central Scotland Police stressed the importance placed upon improving the quality of the service it offered. The evidence makes it clear that this improvement has occurred. However, comparison of the actual team structures outlined in the discussion of the key principles in the full report with that actually implemented raises the issue of whether more might have been achieved if greater specialisation had been introduced;
police job satisfaction
The new model has been generally welcomed by Central Scotland police officers;
reduction in crime
Six months is too short a time to judge what is in any case a notoriously evasive measure. Against a background of falling levels of recorded crime generally, there is no evidence of a decline in performance on the pilot sites. This should be welcomed since the introduction of any new system might be expected to lead to reduced performance in the short term.
This project and experience elsewhere(5) have highlighted several important issues:
  • he management of change from reactive to proactive policing is difficult, and requires the investment of a great deal of time and effort from the management team;
  • communication is a major issue in implementation. There is a constant requirement to transfer information from and to staff in order to ensure they understand the principles underlying the model, the objectives it seeks to achieve and performance indicators which help access whether these objectives have been realised;
  • crime desks are a most effective way of reducing reactive response without any discernible decline in public satisfaction;
  • the priority which must be given to intelligence cannot be overstated and this requires a change in the attitudes of police officers. Upgrading the Intelligence Unit to be the hub of the LCU appears to have been effective in this respect as far as Stirling LCU is concerned. The relationship of the Unit to Callander LCU was, however, less successful. Increasing experience and exeffective however the relationship between the TCG and the CMU and the control of CID need further clarification;
  • the development of specialist teams must be considered. The way in which the reactive CID and patrolling officers are organised will vary according to local conditions but specialist teams have worked well elsewhere - for example, crime scene units with a single visit strategy have been successfully introduced without any noticeable reduction in public satisfaction and have been found to make more efficient use of available resources;
  • the demands the model places upon managers means they will need careful training and support.
Finally, and most importantly, the Crime Management Model presents opportunities rather than solutions for police management. The ultimate success of the model rests on the performance of the Tasking and Co-ordinating Group. By effective use of analysed intelligence the traditional dichotomy between crime fighting and problem solving may be resolved to the benefit of the community. To achieve this requires imagination and initiative.
The work carried out in Central Scotland Police has been encouraging and successful but the full potential of the Crime Management Model is still to be realised.
This Research Findings is based on research carried out by Peter Amey, Chris Hale and Steve Uglow of Canterbury Business School, University of Kent, between October 1994 and April 1995. Copies of the full report on the evaluation of the Central Scotland Police Crime Management Model are available from HMSO at a cost of £5.00 each.
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