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Home » Research Projects » The Police under Public Scrutiny-Experiences, Perceptions and Reactions to a Public Service Institution 1982-2003

Doing better and feeling worse?

How have public perceptions of police fairness and effectiveness changed over the last 20 years?

The British Crime Survey is an extraordinary and under-used resource. It records the opinions and victimisation risks of a representative sample population in England and Wales (including details about crimes respondents might have experienced the previous year) over several decades. Among the findings of the survey are that many respondents believe national crime rates to be rising, while the reported incidence of experience of crime fell from 40% to 23% between 1995 and 2005, and people have divergent beliefs about rates of change in crime at local and national level. What is the relationship between public perceptions and experiences of crime, and police structures and operation?

Over the last three decades, the police forces of England and Wales have been subject to many reforms. These have been focused internally on the recruitment of more officers, improving racial and cultural awareness through training, streamlining management structures and granting greater budgetary responsibility; and also externally on enhancing liaison with local authorities and communities, as well as more tightly regulating controversial policies such as ‘stop and search’. The question to be explored in this study is what, if any relationship there is between such reforms, designed to increase efficiency and efficacy and improve public perception of the police service, and public perceptions of crime levels and personal safety.

What the research means for policy-makers and the wider community

There will be two main beneficiaries from this study:

Research Methods

The study will involve:

Preliminary findings from this project have recently been featured on ESRC Society Today .

Project Poster

Project Poster 2009

Research Team

Andreas Cebulla

Andreas Cebulla

Andreas Cebulla is a Research Director of the National Centre for Social Research in London. He has wide research experience in assessing and analysing the experiences and expectations of different social groups.

Email: a.cebulla@natcen.ac.uk

Mike Stephens

Mike Stephens

Michael Stephens is Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Social Policy in the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University.

Email: m.r.stephens@lboro.ac.uk

Camilla Nevill

Camilla Nevill

Camilla Nevill is a researcher at the National Centre for Social Research. She is also currently working on the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey.

Email: c.nevill@natcen.ac.uk