Police hit back over claims of media blackout on crime

A police chief has defended his force's record of releasing less than one per cent of crimes to the media.

Jim Campbell, deputy chief constable of Northumbria, hit back after allegations that his force was holding a huge amount of crimes back from the public were raised in Parliament.

The force, which is facing cuts of £34 million and the loss of 500 jobs, will this year spend more than £1.7 million a year on corporate communications.

But an investigation by Tyneside-based freelance journalist Nigel Green revealed they release details of less than one in 100 crimes to the media.

His research was raised as an early day motion in the House of Commons last week by Ronnie Campbell, the Labour MP for Blyth, in Northumberland.

Green wrote to Northumbria to ask for a response to the figures and also to previous research he claims proves that the force releases less than one per cent of crimes to the media and that the average delay for releasing a crime is nine days.

Campbell, denied crimes were held back from the public, claiming 'comprehensive'crimes statistics are regularly published on the force's crime-mapping website and other 'engagement mechanisms'involving communities.

He said: 'The simple answer to a part of your question whether it is right for 99 per cent of crimes not to be released to the public is of course it's not right; we would never contemplate endorsing such a position.

'If your question were to be rephrased and ask do I think it is right that the 99 per cent of crimes are not released directly to the media for their convenience, then the answer is yes. I do not believe that it is necessary or practicable for any force to release every single crime.

'Furthermore, it is my honest belief that Northumbria Police do place great emphasis in working with the media to warn and inform the public regarding crimes that happen in their area. I am not naive enough to believe we get it right on each and every occasion but we are committed to working with the media to learn and adapt our practices in the interest of the public."

In response Green said: "It is no good simply saying that all crime stats eventually end up on their website. How many people read that website – and how good is it for getting quick warnings or appeals out to the average man and woman in the street ?

'From the research I have carried out, I believe this poor service is partly due to incompetence and a mistrust of the media but also due to political factors.

'Northumbria recently achieved the highest public confidence figures in the country. I suspect they've been able to do that because they are putting all of their efforts into pumping out good news and burying bad news.

'Meanwhile, the taxpaying public is being conned all ends up. They are paying more and more to be told less and less."

Green, a former crime reporter at The Sunderland Echo, wrote a dissertation on police media relations in 2009.

His research, which was carried out over a month, revealed Northumbria releases less than one per cent of crimes to the media.

Earlier this year, he carried out similar research for The Sunday Post between 9am on Friday, 11 March and 9am, on Monday, 14 March.

The media services' department released: a minor road accident; a robbery at a shop; a stolen car; a stolen dog and an appeal regarding an assault from a week earlier.

However, a request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed there were 4,665 incidents, including 674 crimes.

These included 55 cases of grievous bodily harm, 20 other assaults, one armed robbery and three other robberies, 5 rapes, 12 other sexual assaults and 69 burglaries.

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