Alarms. Dogs. Lights. Nosey neighbours.

PR agencies have for years suggested different ways to scare off burglars in order to drum up business for their clients in security and insurance.

Now the Home Office is having a go, hoping to market to a sceptical public one of its products as the latest scourge of the housebreaker. Introducing all new Police and Crime Commissioner elections

For any message to be effective there must be a kernel of truth in it. But here, it has to be said, there really isn’t.

Low stakeholder engagement in the PCC elections

Setting aside the absence of burglary as a priority from the manifestos of most Police and Crime Commissioner candidates, and the fact that PCCs have limited influence on operational policing, there is an inconvenient truth that awareness of PCC elections is pitifully low.

So disinterested is the electorate – five weeks from polling day – that the phrase “PCC elections” was Googled just 390 times last month.

Admittedly, analysis of internet search terms in the course of some search engine optimisation (something the police and other criminal justice agencies could benefit greatly from, as it happens) can’t be taken as a definitive measure of public interest in who their next Police and Crime Commissioner will be.

But, if the general public isn’t too fussed about this exercise in democracy, it is a far-fetched idea that those willing to break the law are bothered either. Indeed, given burglars are attracted to unoccupied homes during daylight hours it could be (albeit facetiously) argued they would view a high turnout at the polls as more of an opportunity than a threat.

Strong tactical communications needed

Of course, the Home Office should be applauded for doing whatever it can to strengthen the mandate of Police and Crime Commissioners. This role is set to become more influential than before with additional powers from Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. But the premise this message is based upon – that criminals worry about the influence Police and Crime Commissioner elections could have on their activities – is false: they don’t worry about the elections because they (almost certainly) don’t know about them. Which is, of course, the underlying problem the message is seeking to help to solve. Less of a circular argument, more of a circular flaw.

Granted, it’s easy to snipe and, yes, the value of strong governance is not easy to explain to an electorate deafened by the EU referendum and poorly-served by dwindling local media.

But consider this as an alternative theme.

Since the 2012 PCC elections the following controversies and scandals have either emerged or intensified, generating widespread public concern:

  • Undercover policing
  • Street grooming
  • VIP paedophiles
  • Plebgate

The question ‘Who polices the police?’ has never been more pertinent. The answer is ‘On 5th May, you decide’.

With our experience of media, politics and marketing, we know as well as anybody that selling criminal justice is hard – and how much thought it really takes to smash and grab public attention.

Jon Clements

Jon Clements

Director of Development

Jon Clements is Director of Development at Crest Advisory, and formerly a crime reporter for ITV News and the Daily Mirror.

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