Police force silent over nearly 2,000 weekend incidents - Press Gazette

Police force silent over nearly 2,000 weekend incidents

An investigation by the York Press has revealed their local force dealt with more than 2,000 incidents in one weekend – but released just three to the media.

Jennifer Bell, crime reporter at The Press, made a Freedom of Information application in relation to the weekend of 25 to 27 June this year, when England played Germany in the World Cup.

Between 5pm on Friday and 5am on Monday, the request revealed that the force received 2,046 calls – an average of one every two minutes.

They included 18 sudden deaths, 120 violent crimes, 61 road accidents, seven incidents involving firearms, five sex attacks and dozens of road accidents.

Gavin Aitchison, news editor at The Press, said: ‘Only three of these were released to the media.

‘It was instantly hard not to contrast the thousands of incidents in the FOI response with the small number that had been publicised by the force.

‘North Yorkshire Police’s press department is tremendously helpful whenever we go to them with enquiries – more so than many public bodies in our area.

‘But there appears to be a culture within police forces nationally which means the majority of incidents are not made public.”

Chief superintendent Colin Taylor, director of corporate communications at North Yorkshire Police. claimed the force is more open than ever.

He said: ‘There are occasions when details of incidents, or certain aspects, are withheld by the police to avoid compromising an investigation.

‘This is clearly an important operational decision taken by the investigating officer, and is based on the sole interest of securing justice for victims of crime.

‘Supporting effective investigation overrides the issue of raising the fear of crime when deciding to make an appeal in the media.

‘However, it is vital that such appeals include messages and actions of reassurance from the police as well as regular updates to keep people informed and allay fears.

‘North Yorkshire Police actively fosters effective media relations with the 50-plus newspapers, radio stations, television and website news outlets covering the county, both on day-to-day matters and when dealing with serious and critical incidents.

‘We take the responsibility of being a trusted source of news extremely seriously.

‘However, it is not in the force’s remit to provide a ‘news service’that outlines every single incident regardless of operational need.”

But according to news editor Aitchison: ‘The politicisation of policing means that forces have to spend much of their time managing the fear and perception of crime, often at the expense of publishing the simple facts about what’s happening in our communities.

‘Those who have been in journalism for many years will testify to the fact that police forces proactively release far less information about actual crime than in the past, or take far longer to give details of incidents.

‘There is clearly a debate to be had over whether information about crime is the property of the police force, to manage as it sees fit, or the property of the public at large.

‘North Yorkshire Police was initially very defensive, but we believe this is a matter of clear public interest, and decided we had a duty to our readers to raise the debate.”