IACP 2014: Citizen Survey - Eighty Percent Believe More Digital Tools Can Improve Police Services

Oct. 24, 2014
Gap exists between citizen expectations and police use of digital tools

ORLANDO, Fla.; Oct.24, 2014 – Eight-out-of-10 citizens surveyed by Accenture (NYSE:ACN) believe expanded use of new and advanced digital tools would improve police services.  Specifically, they are comfortable with police officers using: predictive technologies (88 percent), security cameras (83 percent), wearable technologies, such as body-worn cameras, (80 percent) and mobile devices (89 percent).

Following a similar 2012 research survey by Accenture, the 2014 survey shows that 96 percent of those surveyed believe the public has a role to play in police services, and 78 percent see crime reporting as a key responsibility for citizens.  The Accenture Citizen Pulse Survey on Policing 2014 was conducted in August 2014 among 4,000 people in eight countries (learn more Research and Insights and Infographic).

“This survey shows that citizens believe that digital tools -- such as mobile devices and wearable cameras -- together with predictive analytics-based technologies can have a positive impact on crime by helping identify where crime might occur and how best to deploy police, “ said Ger Daly, who leads Accenture’s global Defense & Public Safety business. “It also shows that while nearly all citizens want to actively help police prevent, detect and fight crime, there is a gap between what digital tools citizens expect police to use, and what police actually use.”

Social Media

The most significant shift in citizen expectations between the 2012 and 2014 surveys was an increase in the demand for digital channels for interacting with police, which was up from 20 percent in 2012 to 42 percent in 2014. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents in the current survey said today they are more willing to engage with their local police via social media than they were a year ago. For citizens willing to engage with police via social media, Facebook remains the preferred channel (85 percent in 2014 compared to 81 percent 2012), followed by Twitter, which had the most growth (up to 42 percent from 35 percent) and YouTube (up to 26 percent from 19 percent).

Citizens’ perceptions of social media usage by police have gone up from 13 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2014. However, a gap still exists between citizen expectations and the use of digital social media channels by police.

Perception Gaps Still Exist

Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents want more interaction with their local police, and 79 percent of those are specifically interested in more digital interaction.  The percentage of citizens who believe that their local police force currently uses digital channels has more than doubled in the last two years— to 42 percent in 2014 from 20 percent in 2012.  Despite the perceived increase in digital usage by police, 77 percent of respondents to the 2014 survey said that police should use digital, which indicates a gap of 35 percentage points between citizen expectations of the use of digital by police and their perceptions about current digital usage.  

The survey responses identified additional insights into the perception gaps:

  • Twenty percent of citizen respondents believe that the police currently use websites or Web portals to communicate, but 46 percent of them believe police should be using the Web;
  • Thirteen percent said their local police are using smartphones or apps, but 34 percent who believe the police should be using those tools; and
  • Twenty-four percent of respondents said the police use social media—such as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube—but 42 percent believe they should.

The survey indicates that despite the perception gaps, demand for and use of websites and email interactions appear to be fairly consistent information-sharing channels between citizens and police: website usage, at 20 percent. is only two percentage points less than in 2012 (22 percent), while citizen perception of email usage by police has gone up from 11 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2014.

In 2012, only five percent of respondents perceived that police are using smartphone apps to interact with citizens; in 2014, that number increased eight percentage points to 13 percent.  Meanwhile, citizen demand for smartphone apps has risen from 23 percent in 2012 to 34 percent in 2014 with nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents saying they would use a mobile app created by their local police force to report crimes or obtain information about crimes.

“These results show that citizen perception of both the use of smartphone apps by police and citizen demand for smartphone apps connecting them to the police have increased – which indicates  an opportunity for police to increase their use of these types of digital interactions  to meet citizen expectations, and engage and interact more effectively with them,” added Daly.

Reporting Crime and Neighborhood Policing

Citizens still prefer traditional methods of reporting crime, but their enthusiasm for the traditional methods is decreasing. If they had to choose one form of interaction with police, over half (51 percent) of the respondents in 2014—said they prefer to interact with police via the telephone compared to 59 percent in 2012. Further, the preference of interacting with police in person was down to 19 percent in 2014 from 22 percent in 2012.  In contrast, Internet and website use as a preferred method of reporting crimes and other incidents has more than doubled from 4 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2014.

Despite citizens’ growing desire for more digital interaction with police, neighborhood policing remains important: 63 percent say they would like a neighborhood police contact.  Three-quarters of all respondents (76 percent) who do not currently have a community police force contact want one – up from 62 percent in 2012.

“Citizens see digital as a real crime-fighting tool that can prevent as well as detect crimes, and the police should be congratulated for making significant progress in their digital advancement,” said James Slessor, who leads Accenture Public Safety Services globally. “But, it is not enough for police simply to provide digital channels for citizens to engage. In order for police to successfully address the gap between citizen receptivity and actual use of digital tools, there needs to be an emphasis on community education to advance understanding about how these new digital tools, such as mobile apps and social media, will be used.”

U.S. Findings

U.S. citizens feel safe and see their police as effective:

  • 84 percent of U.S. citizens say they feel safe in their neighborhood
  • 86 percent rate their local police force as effective
  • 80 percent rank preventing crime as the top service they want their police to provide, ahead of neighborhood safety (73 percent) and investigating and catching criminals (78 percent)

Citizens believe the public should play a role in crime reporting and they are willing to engage

  • 75 percent say the public should play a role in crime reporting
  • 73 percent say the public should participate in neighborhood watch programs
  • 68 percent of those without one currently say they would like a community or neighborhood contact within the police force
  • 65 percent say they would like more interaction with the police in general

Digital means can facilitate interaction with the police and are desired by the U.S. public

  • 74 percent say the police should interact with the public via some type of digital means, although only 44 percent say the police currently interact with the public in a digital way
  • Today, 66 percent are more willing to engage with the police via social media then they were a year ago, and 66 percent would use a mobile app created by the police to obtain information about or report crimes

 “According to the survey data, there appears to be increased citizen expectation of expanded digital interaction with police, perhaps reflecting greater global trust in digital channels, including social media, and its potential to enhance public safety. Police have made progress, but there is tremendous opportunity to help bridge the expectation gap,” concluded Daly.

About the Survey

The 2014 online citizen survey included 4,000 respondents (global margin of error ±1.55), across eight countries, with approximately 500 respondents each from Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States (margin of error ±4.38 per country). Data comparisons from 2012 to 2014 are based on the full set of countries in each wave. Even when accounting for variations in the markets between the two waves, patterns in the data show consistent year-over-year trends.The survey age categories represented include 30 percent between 18 years and 34 years of age 37 percent between 35 and 54 years of age and 32 percent who were more than 55 years old. Fifty-one percent of respondents were female and 49 percent were male when the survey was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland in August 2014. Learn more about The Accenture Citizen Pulse Survey on Policing 2014    and Infographic. Learn more about Accenture’s global Defense & Public Safety Industry and Delivering Public Service for the Future.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 305,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com. 

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