My copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines a confidence trick as “an act of cheating or tricking someone by persuading them to believe something that is not true.”
Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
So imagine my reaction upon perusing the contents of “Policing Surrey”, a glossy puff-piece shoved through my door this morning as part of Nanny’s ongoing efforts to convince me she’s doing a bang-up job for the money. In a surely unintended moment of honesty, I note from the ten performance targets for 2010/11 listed on page 11 of the booklet that Surrey Police is hoping:
“1) For public confidence in Surrey Police to remain at or above 80%”
But further down the list, I read that Surrey Police is also hoping:
“8) To improve detection rates for serious crimes to 18.6%”
So, let me get this straight. Surrey Police currently spends a £215.8 million annual budget (page 7), almost half of which it admits (on page 11) is extracted from Surrey residents through Council tax.
In return for this largesse, more than 80% of Surrey residents are kept convinced that Surrey Police is doing a fine job. But for this coming year, the force is hoping to raise its detection rates for serious crimes to a point where perpetrators will still have an 81.4% chance of not getting caught.
If this isn’t a multi-million pound public relations confidence trick, what is it?
And by the way, in light of the force’s own assessment of its results, will the next person who tells me the right to bear arms should be left to the public safety experts kindly tell me who the experts really are in this context?
Meanwhile, should a genuinely public-spirited officer or civilian member of Surrey Police happen to read this piece… let’s swap condolences.