The Audit Commission found that despite the number of recorded crimes falling, the police are catching fewer offenders than in the past. And the gap between the worst and best performing forces is widening.
The report Performance Indicators: Police and Fire Services 1997-98 said: "It is sometimes thought that having more police officers is the way to increase the proportion of crime cleared up. In some forces, there were increases in the number of police officers... but the percentage of crimes solved either stayed the same or fell."
It added that "simply deploying more police officers does not reduce the amount of crime occurring in an area. A great deal depends on how those police officers are deployed." For example, Cleveland Constabulary, the home of zero tolerance policing, had seen a rise in the number of police officers and spending in the past five years. But it had experienced a fall in detection rates for violent crime and burglary and a drop in the number of crimes detected per officer.
The Metropolitan Police and the Merseyside force had seen big drops in numbers of police on the beat, yet they had managed important increases in crimes solved.