Policing priorities in London: do borough characteristics make a difference?
Norris, Paul Andrew
Much current discourse around policing in the UK stresses the need for a partnership between the police and public and, in particular, the need for the police to be responsive to the concerns of local communities. It is argued that appearing responsive to local needs, and showing a willingness to consult the public in the process of decision making, is likely to increase support for the police. Despite this, detailed analysis of the public’s preferences for policing remains relatively sparse. This thesis uses data from the 2003-04 Metropolitan Police’s Public Attitude Survey (PAS) to consider whether survey data can provide a useful indication of a respondent’s preferences, and how these preferences may vary depending on the characteristics of respondents and the boroughs in which they live. This thesis argues that rather than simply considering some overall measure of the level of policing individuals would like to see, or investigating attitudes towards different functions of the police individually, a more interesting and complete view of preferences for policing can be developed by looking at the mix of policing that individuals best believe will meet their needs. Additionally, it will be shown that differences in respondents’ preferences can be related to both the characteristics of individuals and the nature of the boroughs in which they live. It will be suggested that some of these relationships provide evidence that respondents favour a mix of policing they believe will protect them from perceived threats and reflect their perception of the police’s role within society. In addition, this thesis provides an example of how the techniques of Factor Analysis and Latent Class Analysis can provide greater insight into the data collected in large scale surveys. It is suggested that responses provided to different questions are often related and may represent a more general underlying attitude held by the respondent. It is also argued that using techniques which can handle multilevel data will provide greater explanatory depth by suggesting how a respondent’s attitude may be influenced by the context in which they live. The analysis presented offers new insights into the public’s priorities for policing and demonstrates the worth of the statistical methods employed. However it is, to some extent, limited by the form of the questions within the PAS dataset and by the lack of information about the thought process underlying a respondent’s answers. These concerns will be discussed, along with suggestions for future research.