A SURVEY on the public’s attitude to the police has revealed that around three quarters of people in Northern Ireland feel that the police are polite and helpful when dealing with ordinary policing problems.

The annual survey, known as a Community Attitudes Survey, is commissioned by the government to provide an objective assessment of public perceptions and views on crime, law and order and policing issues.

Almost 1,500 people were interviewed for the survey which was conducted over a 12-month period between January and December 2000.

Results from the report showed that three quarters of respondents questioned felt that the police were generally helpful and polite. Similarly 75 per cent said the police deal fairly with everyone and 72 per cent thought that the police do a good job in their area.

However, the biggest differential related to whether or not the police do a good job, with 79 per cent of Protestants agreeing they do a good job, compared with 58 per cent of Catholics.

Asked who should be responsible for police complaints, 39 per cent of Catholics and 23 per cent of Protestants said it should be a completely independent body outside the police.

When questioned about community involvement in policing, only 28 per cent said they would be interested in joining a local group meeting regularly with the police to discuss policing.

While 56 per cent of people thought that the police try equally hard to recruit from both sections of the community, 85 per cent of Catholics and 60 per cent of Protestants thought there were too few Catholic officers.

Another conclusion of the report shows most people in Northern Ireland believe that crime is not common in their area and that they are unlikely to be victims of crime. People strongly believe that crime against the person is the least likely offence to occur, with nine out of ten people believing that mugging is not common to their area.

Instead respondents named speeding (32 per cent), burglary (14 per cent), vandalism (13 per cent) and illegal drug abuse (12 per cent) as the crimes they believed the police should devote time tackling illegal drug abuse (42 per cent) and drinking and driving (13 per cent).

With regard to relations with the police, around four out of five respondents said they would use the telephone if they wanted to report an ordinary crime, a nuisance or disturbance. Although only 14 per cent said they would visit the police station. (AMcE)

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