An investigation by the Sunday Post newspaper has revealed that Northumbria police tells the public about just one per cent of crimes, despite spending £1.7m a year on “corporate commmunications”.
The Sunday Post monitored press releases between 9am on Friday, March 11 and 9am, on Monday, 14 March.
During those three days, 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, five rapes, 12 other sexual assaults and 69 burglaries.
Northumbria Police spent £1,775,996 on ‘corporate communications’in the last financial year. This includes £458,602 on ‘media services”, with the rest going on public consultation, internal communications, marketing and the force website.
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: ‘The media is one of a wide range of communication channels used by Northumbria Police and is considered as a matter of course.
‘Other methods are also considered by the investigating officer and the most appropriate channels of communication will be selected on a case by case basis.
‘The introduction of a series of crime mapping systems, with the latest national system launched in January 2011, negates any suggestion that we withhold crimes from the public. The numbers, categories and locations of crime are available for everyone to see.”
‘It is primarily a matter for the police officer investigating the crime to decide whether a public appeal is needed, though there is oversight to ensure that public interest requirements are met.”
With regards to the violent and sexual offences, she added: ‘Stranger rape is very unusual. The majority of rapes are committed by offenders who are known to the victim and media appeals are rarely needed in these instances.”
‘Where there is no potential for witnesses and no need for identification there is no policing purpose to releasing information and seeking publicity that would add to the victim’s trauma and contribute nothing to the investigation.
‘In the case of a violent assault we need to wait until the victim is able to speak to us to provide us with details of what happened and sometimes, understandably, this can take some time.”
The force defended the spending on corporate communications by saying it covered a wide range of services.