Comms can be cheaper than policing when deterring crime

Being able to effectively evaluate the impact of communication activity is something we are all striving to do.

Comms can be a cost-effective means of deterring criminal activity, writes Amanda Coleman
Comms can be a cost-effective means of deterring criminal activity, writes Amanda Coleman

It is one thing to measure the outputs of what has been done but we need to know that we are achieving the required outcomes.

In the world of police communication the activity has to prevent or detect crime, otherwise we are missing the target.

Earlier this year Greater Manchester Police carried out an operation to target commercial burglary and robbery known as Operation Guard.

There were a number of operational activities that were carried out and, as often happens, alongside this was the required PR campaign.

The difference this time was that the effectiveness was evaluated by a team looking at evidenced-based policing.

It was done with academic rigour in a way that I would like to be able to replicate for everything we do.

There was a reduction of 298 fewer crimes for the four-month period that the operation was underway.

The impact of operational policing activity was then evaluated against that of the promotion carried out to highlight the work that was underway.

The areas where PR was put in place showed a 24 per cent decrease compared with a 28 per cent decrease where operational tactics were in place.

Both are positive results, but when you consider the costs of communication activity compared with that of a policing operation they are substantially less.

The final report recognised that promotional activity was "considerably more cost-effective and less human-resource-intensive" than operational activity.

Among the recommendations was one to ensure that communication campaigns are included in developing operations.

Both are positive results, but when you consider the costs of communication activity compared with that of a policing operation they are substantially less.

Amanda Coleman, head of corporate comms for Greater Manchester Police

It has given the communication team some important data to help demonstrate the significant operational benefit the can be brought through the work.

PR is far from being 'fluffy' promotional activity and is about supporting frontline policing.

Operation Guard has given clear evidence of the impact of communication and the link to the reduction in the number of commercial robberies and burglaries.

The activity may have not been amazingly creative or innovative.

It will probably never win any awards, but it has had a significant impact, and this is fully evidenced.

After almost two decades in police communication I have seen countless times when the work of the communication team has helped to bring criminals to justice.

We had a recent case where within four hours of putting out an appeal we had people arrested for the crime; they were charged shortly after.

It is easy to lose sight of this due to the sheer amount of communication that is sent out every day to the media and put on social media.

Evaluation is vital to ensure we know what is successful and why, so we can develop what we do to benefit the business.

We can no longer look at media, social media or other metrics on their own.

To truly know if something has been successful we have to be able to see the impact on the frontline of the organisation – in my case that is preventing crime, protecting people and catching criminals.

Amanda Coleman is head of corporate comms for Greater Manchester Police


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