The Home Office should set up an independent National Crime Analysis Unit to monitor crime trends and inform its approach to policing, the Policy Exchange think tank has said.
The independent unit should report “honestly and openly on the underlying causes of crime levels and without obfuscation”, the think tank said in a report today, which also called more resources to be directed to the National Crime Agency to tackle organised crime.
Policy Exchange has made several recommendations following the prime minister’s announcement that the Treasury will release funding to recruit 20,000 more police officers – reversing cuts that have been made since the coalition government's austerity drive began in 2010.
It argued that the recruitment drive would be a “catalyst for rekindling British policing”, but said they should be deployed strategically to ensure they are as effective as possible.
To inform its work, the report said an independent analysis unit should provide updates on the drivers of crime and monitor the delivery of a national police resource plan to deliver the promised increase in officer numbers over the next three years. These reports should be public because “too often in the past, Ministers have massaged crime figures and used crime statistics selectively,” the report said.
The unit would be directed by the National Policing Board, which Boris Johnson announced in July to drive his planned recruitment of police officers. The report said the home secretary should use the NPB to set “clear national and regional priorities and streamline decision making”. The majority of the freshly recruited officers should be used to restore community neighbourhood teams back to 2010 levels, it added.
They should also be used to tackle what it called the “less visible threats” from serious and organised crime, which had increased substantially, the think tank said. Funding has not matched this increase and there is now a “growing capability and capacity gap” in the NCA and regional and organised crime units, it said.
In May, NCA director general Lynne Owens said serious and organised crime represented a “chronic and corrosive” threat to the UK, and that an extra £2.7bn was needed every year to tackle the problem – £650m of which should go the crime agency.
Responding to today's report on Twitter, Owens said: “I support all of the recommendations that relate to serious and organised crime.
“The public can not afford for it to be the poor relation – crushed between the valued visible neighbourhood policing and the acute counter terrorism threat.”
Elsewhere in the report, Policy Exchange said the Home Office should establish a “police technology innovation hub” to report to the National Policing Board on opportunities presented by technologies such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition.
“The technological revolution is radically impacting and often outpacing policing, for instance, through the opportunities presented by body worn cameras and digital media exploitation of phones and other media devices,” the report said. It recommended that the hub be chaired by a senior chief constable and draw on the expertise of private sector experts and venture capitalists “who can help advocate change directly with the home secretary”.
It also called for the the two watchdogs that oversee policing, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, to be merged into a single body.
Maintaining both bodies is expensive, costing around £100m a year in total, and “places a heavy bureaucratic burden on individual forces”, it said.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government is taking action to protect the public by recruiting 20,000 new police officers and we are working with our policing partners to make this happen.
"Consideration will always be given to the changing demands of policing and this includes [police community support officers], who play an important role. Police forces themselves can decide the individual needs within existing budgets.
“The National Policing Board will bring senior leaders from the sector together to discuss how well we are collectively delivering against our priorities.”