How should the police get a grip on demand?

To get to grips with longer-term problems and deliver sustained reduction in demand, the police need to take a range of issues into account.

When planning how to reduce demand, the police need to consider patterns and long-term trends (for example, how areas compare to other similar areas), whether and how the police currently respond and what resources are involved in that response. When there is an increase in demand, further analysis is needed to determine whether it is the start of a new trend that the police or someone else should target, or a temporary spike that is unlikely to be affected by police action (eg, because it is due to an unexpected change in the weather). Going beyond the raw numbers, it will be important for the police to prioritise incidents that cause the most harm, and identify and respond to any unmet needs (such as people at risk who do not come to the attention of the police). Care will also be required to ensure that efforts to reduce demand do not have any unintended adverse consequences (for example, the public not reporting incidents to the police, or the police not recording them appropriately).

A range of data and information can be analysed to develop a detailed understanding of police demand (such as who it affects, what generates it and why, where and when it is concentrated). Alongside police-recorded crime and intelligence, sources might include victim surveys and talking to local communities. Analysis of these data sources can help the police and their partners to decide who is best placed to respond to a problem, and what is the best thing they can do to tackle its root causes (What is the best thing the police can do to reduce crime?). A problem-solving approach is more likely to deliver sustained reductions in demand than a short-term increase in police activity on its own (Hinkle and others, 2020, Taylor and others, 2011).

Read more about demand management in these College of Policing resources:

The following external resources may also prove useful (available online or through the National Police Library):

  • Lauf J and others. (2020). 'Understanding the concept of "demand" in policing: a scoping review and resulting implications for demand management'. Policing and Society [internet].

  • Sidebottom A and others. (2020). 'Problem-Oriented Policing in England and Wales 2019' [internet].

  • Sidebottom A and others. (2020). 'Implementing and sustaining problem-oriented policing: A guide'. Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, University College London [internet].

  • Walley P and Adams M. (2019). 'An Evaluation of Demand Management Practices in UK Police Forces' [internet].

See also: 'The National Problem-Solving and Demand Reduction Programme Group' on Knowledge Hub.


Hinkle JC and others. (2020). 'Problem-Oriented Policing for Reducing Crime and Disorder.' Oslo: Campbell Collaboration.

Taylor B, Koper C and Woods D. (2011). 'A Randomized Controlled Trial of Different Policing Strategies at Hot Spots of Violent Crime'. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 7, pp 149-181.

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