Fury over details of crimes withheld in reports

A new police policy across Bradford to withhold some crime details from Neighbourhood Watch groups to avoid raising the fear of crime has been slammed as"unjustifiable","secretive" and"silly".

Until recently, Neighbourhood Watch schemes were given information about all the crime happening in their ward.

Now, they have been told in an e-mail that they will only receive details of crimes in their streets, rather than the entire ward, as police bosses believe the old system had"a negative effect on people's perception of crime."

The e-mail said: "We have been advised, through surveys, that we are having a negative effect on people's perception of crime, and that we are actually raising the fear of crime by telling you what is happening.

This is not the intention, obviously, so we have been asked to inform the co-ordinator only if there has been a crime in your specific street."

But all the district MPs say that withholding information would make people suspicious and hit public confidence in the force.

The police said the public could now find out about all crimes in their ward from a website called Beatcrime.

However, the website has not been updated since December 20 and only shows crime information up to October last year.

Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said: "I believe the stance of the police is completely unjustifiable. The key to making the public feel safer is to detect crimes and ensure the perpetrators are properly punished."

Keighley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins said: "As upsetting as the fear of crime stats might be, a secretive police service more interested in managing public perception is far more damaging."

Marsha Singh, MP for Bradford West, said: "In this day and age with revelations and freedom of information and MPs going to prison I don't see why the public shouldn't know what's going on in their area."

Mr Sutcliffe, MP for Bradford South, said: "I think it's silly. People who are involved in neighbourhood watch need to be told what's going on in their area."

Elizabeth Hellmich, chairman of the Lawcroft Neighbourhood Watch Association, has written to West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison to complain. She said: "I've been a Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator since it started in this area and I was talking to a few of the members the other night and they're not happy. If people don't want that information and it does scare them, then opt out."

John Rhodes, a co-ordinator for the Dalecroft Rise and Lampard's Close areas of Allerton, denied the old way of receiving information was"frightening."

He said: "The information that had been sent to us was extremely useful in the sense it helped us to pinpoint the hotspots of crime, whether there were trends going up or down."

Chief Inspector Marianne Huison, of the Bradford District Safer Neighbourhoods and Partnerships, defended the change in police policy and said it was in "no way" an attempt to hide information.

"Our intention is to change the information we send out on a daily basis to ensure that it is useful in either preventing or detecting crime," she said.

"We can only do this by ensuring the right information gets to the right people at the right time, rather than being lost in scores of detail which cannot be acted upon.

"Our policy continues to be open, transparent and to keep residents informed within their neighbourhoods."