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Express & Star Crime Survey results revealed: Public anger laid bare in findings

By Alex Ross | Crime | Published: | Last Updated:

Police and the criminal justice system have been given a resounding vote of no confidence by Express & Star readers in the title’s first ever Crime Survey.

The grim blue line - readers tough on law and order in Express & Star survey

Today we publish the damning results of the questionnaire filled out by more than 10,000 people over the past two weeks.

It has led to calls for an ‘urgent rethink’ of policing from one Black Country MP, while police bosses have bemoaned a lack of funding from the Government.

The crime survey of readers show:

  • 87 per cent say police are not doing a good job
  • 94 per cent do not have faith in the criminal justice system
  • 90 per cent are not happy with the job of their Police and Crime Commissioner
  • 97 per cent say Government is not acting tough enough on crime

And according to the survey, more than half of readers do not feel safe and two thirds never see police on patrol in their area.

Earlier this year, this title revealed officer numbers across both constabularies had fallen more than 2,500 in a decade.

Meanwhile, crime is on the increase in both areas.

Read the Express & Star crime survey results

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The Express & Star Crime Survey has exposed a glaring lack of faith in the ability of police to solve crimes and courts to put criminals away.

The strength of feeling has been laid bare following one of the largest opinion polls conducted in recent history by this newspaper.

It reflects anger and frustration from the public over rising crime and efforts by the police and criminal justice system.

The Express & Star Crime Survey results revealed

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Some responses to the survey were accompanied with handwritten letters.

One said ‘if there is one God, help us’, while other simply wrote ‘stronger judges and prison sentences’ on the sent-in response.

The survey asked 10 key questions on the state of crime, policing and safety and was answered by 10,000 people.

It was launched after it emerged crime in the West Midlands and Staffordshire had soared in the year to March. Among the incidents were a series of high-profile shootings and stabbings.

A huge 94 per cent said they did not have faith in the criminal justice system.

Nearly two-thirds of people said they never see police on patrol in their area and 88 per cent said more bobbies were needed on the street in order to reduce crime. Almost three-quarters of people said they are not very confident police will solve a crime if they report it. Two-thirds of people also said they did not feel safe in their area.

A minuscule three per cent of people – around 300 – think the Government is tough on crime while a massive 96 per cent are opposed to the wide-ranging programme of police station closures.

When asked on a scale of one to five how safe they felt in their area 30 per cent chose one – not safe at all. Only five per cent of people who had reported a crime in the last 12 months said they were happy with the outcome.

Some 87 per cent said they do not think their police force does a good job dealing with crime, while 72 per cent said if they reported a crime they would not be confident in the police solving it.

But it was the question on how often police are seen on patrol which was perhaps most revealing. A total of 64 per cent said they never see officers out and about on the street, with a further 20 per cent saying once a month.

Finally, 90 per cent of respondents said they were not happy with the job being done by their elected Police and Crime Commissioner, responsible for holding the police to account and funding.

Find out what the MPs say about the results

Conservative MP James Morris for Halesowen and Rowley Regis said: “An urgent rethink needs to take place over the role of policing in our communities, starting with the halting of station closures, and restoring public trust in our police force.”

Labour MPs Ian Austin, for Dudley North, and John Spellar, for Warley, blamed funding cuts to the forces.

MPs James Morris, Ian Austin and John Spellar

Mr Austin said: “It is the same situation right across the country with the explosion in knife crime and gang violence in London.”

Mr Spellar said: “The massive cuts under Theresa May and her successors as Home Secretary – which have hit the West Midlands more than any other area – are coming home to roost. Police numbers plummet and criminals are taking back control of the streets.”

Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith, Labour, said: “The responses to the Express & Star survey are bleak. and recorded crime is rising at the fastest rate in a decade.”

Eleanor Smith MP

People want to see police officers on the street and have a local police station.

“The survey has been done in a climate of the Government being in total denial about the misery their cuts to public services have caused.

“The police are being asked to do more with less, leaving communities exposed. More than 21,000 police officers have been axed

What do leading police officers and victim support charities say?

Charity Victim Support said the readers’ response was ‘extremely disappointing’, but not surprising.

Chief officer Diana Fawcett said: “It’s extremely disappointing to see that just six per cent of people across Staffordshire and West Midlands have faith in the criminal justice system, which reflects our own research and what we hear from our service users in our day to day work.”

In response to the survey, West Midlands Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said the force had 2,000 fewer officers since 2010 who were dealing with more calls than ever before.

Louisa Rolfe

Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, said: “We care about people’s perceptions of crime and the impact it can have on the quality of life for those who live and work in the West Midlands. Today we have around 6,500 police officers − some 2,000 fewer than in 2010 due to cuts of £145-million − and every day those officers are working hard to keep people safe and tackle crime. With less officers we respond to more calls and more complex crime than ever before.

“We continue to prioritise crimes that cause the greatest harm to our communities. We’re targeting gun crime and last year took 144 firearms off the streets, disrupted organised crime and secured long jail sentences for criminal gangs. We have achieved some fantastic results, but we have more to do. We want to reduce burglary, car crime and violence.

“In recent years we’ve re-opened our officer recruitment scheme and, since 2014, a total of 966 new PC recruits have joined us to replace officers lost through retirement or transfers, injecting fresh thinking, enthusiasm and new skills to our ranks. Many of these new recruits have joined neighbourhood police teams across the West Midlands area where they are on the beat and working with local people to tackle issues of concern. Despite cuts we have more officers in local policing.

“Regarding police station closures, these decisions are not taken lightly but it is vital we continue to question how much we spend on out-of-date buildings when we no longer fill them. Policing is about people, not buildings, and the money we’ve saved has allowed us to invest in technology available to officers that keeps them working within the heart of their community."

Gareth Morgan

Staffordshire Chief Constable Gareth Morgan said the result was disappointing.

He said he would continue work on transforming the force, increasing the number of neighbourhood officers and reducing the number of stations.

“I know that police visibility is important to Staffordshire’s communities and I have rebalanced resources to put more officers into neighbourhoods and out on patrol.

“The results of the survey, while disappointing, underline why these changes were needed and I am determined that deploying more officers, utilising new technology and working more closely in their communities will address many of the concerns highlighted.

“I have consistently maintained that current funding levels are unsustainable and I will continue to press government to revisit budgets so that I can maintain appropriate policing levels and protect the public from the threats we face now and in the future.”

Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis, said: "The people surveyed covers a population of millions across very different areas. The results don't indicate who said what about where, which makes it difficult to comment, as it is difficult for those answering the questions without all the facts.

"I find that most people want more police officers on our streets, rather than so many under-used buildings. In Staffordshire the big increase in local neighbourhood policing, which is happening now is being well received, as is spending tight public budgets better through public services sharing buildings and using the savings on more frontline services."

Dwaine Haughton

Last month, Dwaine Haughton, 24, was shot dead in Park Village, Wolverhampton. That came only weeks after 15-year-old Keelan Wilson was knifed to death in the Merry Hill area of the city.

And just last week, Tyrone Andrew was jailed for 14 years for killing 19-year-old Reagan Asbury following a boxing event at Walsall Town Hall.

Violent crime has doubled across the Black Country in five years, while weapons possession has also rocketed, a study of crime figures found last month.

Weapons possession, vehicle offences and sex attacks have all increased but the number of drug offences has fallen.

Reagan Asbury

It is a similar picture in Staffordshire where possessions, robberies and violence are on the increase.

Anti-social behaviour continues to strangle the boroughs of Staffordshire with a huge rise in public order offences.

These include people drunk, acting disorderly and lighting fires in open air.

In South Staffordshire, Stafford and Cannock Chase, the public order offences more than doubled over five years.

Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
Investigations Editor - @alexross_star

Investigations Editor at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.

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