Rape and other sex offences should be the biggest police priority, say public

·4-min read
The number of people wanting rape to be prioritised by police is greater than for any other crime (Getty Images)
The number of people wanting rape to be prioritised by police is greater than for any other crime (Getty Images)

The number of people wanting rape to be prioritised by police is greater than for any other crime, a new survey revealed on Tuesday in a new reflection of public concern about sex attacks on women.

The Ipsos Mori poll shows that 61 per cent of the public believe that rape and other sexual offences should be treated as a priority by the Met and other forces.

By contrast, only 40 per cent cited terrorism or organised crime as among the three types of offending that they think should be prioritised.

The proportion wanting forces to focus intensely on rape was also higher than the 50 per cent who put other forms of violent crime at the top of their targeting list.

The proportions naming burglary, which 21 per cent said should be a police priority, and drug offences, which were named by just over one in ten of respondents, were also far lower.

Only 4 per cent said that fraud should be prioritised despite its growing prevalence.

The findings come from a “deep dive” survey by Ipsos Mori of nearly 5,000 people nationwide about their perceptions of policing including levels of trust in officers and the public’s top crime concerns.

The responses show that more women than men want rape to be prioritised and the demand for action is particularly strong among younger age groups.

Among 16 to 34-year-old women, for example, 70 per cent say that pursuing rapists and other sex offenders should be a police priority, with 63 per cent of females aged 35 to 54 also citing rape and sexual offending as among the three crime types that they want prioritised.

The statistics also show that women are less likely than men to think that police take crimes against them seriously and slightly less likely too to trust that officers will respond correctly to allegations of crime committed against them or others.

The public pressure for action on rape comes amid intense debate about the continuing problems in bringing offenders to justice despite record levels of such crimes being reported.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed last week that 67,125 rapes were recorded by forces in England and Wales in 2021, along with 183,587 sexual assaults.

Both totals were all-time highs and were mirrored by similar record figures for London, where 8,873 rapes were reported to the Met last year, up 19 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Prosecution rates have remained low, however, with official statistics released earlier this year showing that only 1.3 per cent of reported offences ended in court action.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said since that both the number of charges and convictions rose in the final three months of last year, by 4.6 per cent and 14.7 per cent respectively, in what it said was a sign of “progress” achieved by better working with police.

Meanwhile, in other findings, today’s Ipsos Mori survey also confirms the harm caused to public confidence in the Met by the succession of scandals - including the murder of Sarah Everard and the racist and misogynistic conduct of some officers at Charing Cross police station - which have engulfed it over the past over the past year.

The survey concludes that “Londoners have a particularly negative view of the police compared to the average Briton with only 20 per cent of respondents saying they would speak highly of their local police and just 48 per cent confident they would be treated fairly if they came into contact with officers.

A total of 28 per cent of Londoners also said they believed police are racist and 25 per cent said they were sexist – both much higher than the equivalent figures nationwide of 12 per cent and 15 per cent for these two categories.

Nationwide figures from the survey also show that confidence in police was lower among ethnic minority respondents who are less likely to anticipate fair treatment and more likely to think officers are sexist or racist.

Hannah Shrimpton, Associate Director at Ipsos UK, said:“Rape and sexual offences are the crime type that most Britons want to see police prioritising, yet there are concerns around the effectiveness of police response to violence against women and girls and a lack of confidence that the police take it seriously – particularly among women.

Although overall the public are more positive than negative about their local police force – there are differences regionally. In the run-up to Dame Cressida Dick’s resignation, Londoners were less positive towards the Met and are less likely to describe their local police as trustworthy or competent and more likely to label them sexist and racist compared to the rest of Britain.”

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