Busy Bobbies? How non-crime demand is impacting on the police

“Not the kind of shift we were expecting: 3 hospital guards, safeguarding an elderly lady, safeguarding a vulnerable child, a high risk missing 12 year old.” The words of a nurse? Social worker? In fact a tweet from a Devon and Cornwall police officer just a few weeks ago, illustrating the sheer breadth of calls on police time. ‘Non-crime’ demand is in the spotlight as many ask whether the police is the right service to be dealing with some of these issues.

Police and Crime Commissioners stress the impact the change is having on their ability to plan and deliver what the public need and expect. However, despite the concern of policing leaders, there is not yet a coherent picture about how much time and resource ‘non-crime’ demand is taking up, which have allowed some questionable myths to emerge about how the police spend their time. Clearly it’s not enough to just count calls to the police – a domestic abuse case will take infinitely more resource than a vehicle offence. So what is the best way to do it? Crest has been testing the narrative that policing is increasingly the victim of ‘mission creep’ – picking up demand as a 24/7 public service of last resort. What we have found is something more complex.

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