Community challenge

How Greater Manchester Police used specialist software to conduct a survey of 9,000 households in order to establish a community-based policing programme.

Nov 1, 2007
By Paul Jacques
Neil Corbel

How Greater Manchester Police used specialist software to conduct a survey of 9,000 households in order to establish a community-based policing programme.

The challenge facing Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was to establish a community-based policing programme.

Formed in 1974, GMP has a workforce of more than 7,000 police officers and 3,500 support staff. Serving some 2.5 million people across an area of 500 square miles and 10 metropolitan boroughs, it is one of the largest police forces in the UK.

Consultation is a statutory function of GMP and is ongoing throughout the year.

The Police and Communities Together (PACT) is responsible for drawing up consultation plans for each local area, and reporting on community concerns, safety, crime, and disorder. The police authority also organises youth forums in a number of schools throughout Greater Manchester, bringing together young people and local police officers, with the aim of improving communications and relations.

As part of the National Reassurance Project in the St Mary’s and Failsworth West wards of Oldham Metropolitan Borough, GMP sent a survey to 9,000 households in order to establish its community-based policing programme. The concept focused on identification of ‘signal crime’ –a crime, incident or disorder that when seen or experienced may trigger a member of the public to interpret it as a warning about their level of security.

In previous projects, GMP had used a low-level paper system together with Microsoft’s Excel programme. This method proved far from ideal due to Excel’s limited analysis capabilities.

Keith Bentley, now retired, who was the chief superintendent in charge of operations at Oldham Division, explained: “The non-automated data input procedure proved too resource-hungry.

“We wanted a solution that would not only find answers to questions that basic database and spreadsheet packages would miss, but also make the data entry faster and more reliable.”

Analytical Software company SPSS, specialists in data mining, customer relationship management, business intelligence and data analysis, had already completed similar projects for other police forces in the UK, and GMP decided to adopt the same analytical solution.

By using the SPSS software, GMP aimed to gather a wide range of public views on area policing that could be incorporated into the National Reassurance Project. The questionnaires were created within the SPSS system and the responses were scanned in electronically, eliminating the need for manual data entry.

The survey proved a success. It brought forward 400 people who were willing to work with the police force to deliver problem-solving initiatives in the relevant two wards — particularly relating to actions to stop youth offences and anti-social behavior.

The SPSS solution enabled GMP to reduce cost and time spent on survey research and analysis, as well as making it a model organisation for other police forces to follow.

“Not only did we benefit from a massive reduction in personnel time for this project, saving approximately £14,000 in two weeks, but these results are now being referenced by other GMP divisions as contributions to ‘efficiency savings’ required by the Government,” said Mr Bentley.

He added: “The SPSS scanning process and capability to drill down into our public consultation survey data has become a bedrock on which the project can move forward during the next 12 months. Our increased survey and analysis capability has also impressed several partners who have now fully bought into the National Reassurance Project in Oldham.”

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