A Freedom of Information act response has provided further ammunition for freelance journalist Nigel Green in his long-running feud with Northumbria Police over the release of crime information.
The Northumberland-based journalist has accused the force of ‘withholding a huge number of crimes from the media and the public, while massively increasing its spending on press officers”.
The FOI request by Green revealed that between 4pm on Friday, 9 May, and 9am on Monday, 12 May this year, 4,801 incidents were reported, 161 of them classified as serious. According to Green, only three incidents were placed on the police press office voice bank. He also claims that the on duty press officer released no information.
The FOI request also revealed that Northumbria Police’s budget on communications for 2008/09 is £1,045,000. Two years ago it was £642,662, according to a previous FOI request by Green.
He said: ‘In a recent story in the Northern Echo, the Deputy Chief Constable Dave Warcup defended the spending by saying: ‘Although crime in Northumbria has fallen significantly in the past 10 years, our research shows that the perception of crime has not. We’ve therefore invested a significant amount in services which aim to make sure people have a better understanding of the true picture of crime in their region.’ In other words, he’s admitting that they’re spending more money on propaganda telling people there’s less crime.”
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: ‘The majority of our regular media contacts tell us they are more than happy with the service we provide. Many of them have also built up good local contacts with individual officers who are actively encouraged to work direct with the media.
‘The number of voice bank messages during that period is incorrect. However, we do not intend to get involved in any further discussion about the number of voice bank messages because those who use the voice bank are aware that it is updated with messages regularly.’