Do a majority of Britons say the police have lost control of the streets?

Published: 17th Jul 2018

In brief

Claim

The majority of Britons say the police have lost control of the streets.

Conclusion

A poll of 2,000 people in Great Britain found that 57% agreed with this statement. The poll also found that 43% said their police force was excellent or good and a majority said they felt safe on their streets.

“The majority of Britons say the police have lost control of the streets, a shocking Daily Mail poll reveals today.”

Daily Mail, 15 July 2018

It’s correct that 57% of people responding to a poll said they agreed with the statement “police officers have lost control of our streets and criminals no longer have any fear of being caught and brought to justice.” This was the finding of a poll by pollsters ComRes of just over 2,000 British people done in July 2018.

But that’s not the full picture painted by the poll. It also found that “excellent” or “good” was the most selected response when people were asked to rate their local police force and the majority of people said they felt safe on their streets either during daylight hours or after dark.

What did the poll find?

When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “police officers have lost control of our streets and criminals no longer have any fear of being caught and brought to justice” 20% said they agreed strongly and 37% said that agreed. In total 30% said they disagreed to some extent, 25% disagreed strongly and 5% said they disagreed. 13% said they didn’t know.

Anthony Wells, the Director of Political and Social Research at pollsters YouGov, has previously said that “It should almost go without saying, but you should always look at poll findings in the round. Public opinion is complicated and contradictory.”

Additionally, as detailed by the Pew Research Center, both the wording of survey questions and the order in which they are asked can affect the responses people give.

The poll asked a number of other questions including whether respondents had experienced crime in the past two years, and how satisfied they were with the police’s handling of it. And it asked respondents to choose between statements that were supportive or critical of the police.

The poll also asked if respondents agreed with a number of other statements like “I would like to see more police on foot patrol in my neighbourhood” and “Political correctness is at least partly to blame for the murder rate in some cities like London by diverting police resources to other priorities”.

Around a third of people said they had “seen a police officer on the beat in your street over the past year” while 60% said they hadn’t. 5% said they didn’t know.

Despite this, more people rated the quality of their local police force as good or excellent than any other option and the majority of people surveyed still said they felt safe on the streets.

When asked how they would rate the quality of police services overall in their local area 43% said it was excellent or good, 34% said it was fair, 14% said it was poor or very poor and 9% said they didn’t know.

Asked whether they felt safe on the street around where they lived 92% said they did during daylight hours, but after dark this reduced to 56%. During the day 5% said they didn’t feel safe whereas this increased to 25% after dark.

Official surveys suggest around two thirds are very or fairly satisfied with police

Other surveys also monitor satisfaction levels with the police. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics found that of around 2,200 people surveyed in England and Wales—who had experienced a crime and informed police about it—38% were very satisfied with the police in England and Wales in 2016/17, 31% were fairly satisfied and 32% weren’t satisfied.

Looking at individual incidents, people said they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with the police in 61% of cases involving violence, 72% said they were satisfied in cases involving theft and 68% said they were satisfied in case involving criminal damage. Although in the case of violence and criminal damage only a few hundred people were surveyed.

Figures for 2017/18 are being published later this month.

We’ve written more about crime generally across England and Wales here.


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