Opinion Former Article

Unite: Crime reporting will fall if police service privatised

Six in 10 people would be less likely to report a crime if they knew that a private company was in charge of their personal data, a survey reveals today.

The poll, commissioned by Unite the union, says that some 61per cent would be less likely to report a crime if they knew their personal information was being accessed by a third party. The poll comes as plans to privatise parts of the police force unravel, with the announcement that the pilot forces in the West Midlands and Surrey are to bow to pressure for greater public consultation on the plans.

Unite is launching a new film called 'Police Privatisation 999' to help raise awareness of what is at stake and the dangers of bringing a profit-first ethos into the police service. http://youtu.be/XFcnraGjBpI

Surrey and West Midlands police forces announced yesterday (May 17th) that they were putting plans to push through contracts worth £1.5 billion on hold until after the Olympics, when they would hold a public consultation.

However, with the poll revealing the extent of public unease about the plans, Unite is warning that this lack of support will grow as people give greater consideration to how the profits-first ethos could change the nature of policing in England and Wales. Unite is calling upon the forces and the Home Office to drop the costly privatisation plans altogether.

Under the plans to pilot privatisation in the West Midlands, police IT systems could be run for the force by a private company with workers accessing information about victims and witnesses who are not directly employed by the police force. Unite is warning that if the government succeeds in pushing through a sell-off at West Midlands Police it could begin a snowball effect with police forces selling off services across England and Wales.

The union's survey also revealed that nearly 80 per cent of people polled did not realise their police services were up for sale, confirming fears that WMP was trying to rush through the plans.

The survey of 1200 people, conducted by independent researchers Mass1 for Unite, exposes deep unease over plans to spend millions of pounds on privatising core police services, including 999 call handling, prisoner transportation, crime investigation and forensics with:

63 per cent of those polled would not be comfortable with private companies running police services for profit
60 per cent were not comfortable with private firms handling 999 calls.
63 per cent were not comfortable with private firms handling crime detection and investigation
Only 18 per cent of respondents were comfortable with the privatisation of forensics
Only 17 per cent of respondents were comfortable with private firms handling victims


60 per cent of people were uncomfortable with private firms handling custody and detention.

Peter Allenson, Unite national officer, said:

"West Midlands and Surrey police forces have realised that the public do not want privatisation but they have not dropped the plans altogether. They are simply buying themselves breathing space but no length of time will convince people that profit and policing are a good fit. When people hear their police services could be privatised the majority oppose the plans.

"Privatisation has nothing to do with making our streets safer it has everything to do with profit. It is not about making the police force more efficient - it is about transferring our crucial public services to the private sector, which has a totally different ethos and set of priorities. This is a very dangerous move which our survey shows risks alienating the public from the police force that is meant to serve it.

"As taxpayers we pay for a police service that puts the public first not profits, and that is why we must continue to vehemently oppose any attempts to turn Surrey and the West Midlands into a test bed for the nation."

ENDS

For more information please contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315

Notes to editors

'Mass1 is an independent research company. Surveys were conducted on a face-to-face basis throughout Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton between 21st April and 27th April 2012. A total of 1211 surveys were completed.' 

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