APPLICATIONS to join the disciplined services are soaring due mainly to the economic downturn, prompting the force to impose stricter entrance criteria and tougher questioning of potential recruits. One example is a doubling in the number of women applying to become police inspectors. The force's management is wary people might be turning to police jobs, given the attractive salary package, because they cannot find work elsewhere rather than out of a desire to become law enforcers. 'We don't want people who just want to kill time because they have finished school and have no job,' Senior Superintendent Larry Lung Hung-cheuk said. 'Now we have many options available to us and are striving for an even better quality of recruits. 'We want people who want the police as their lifelong career.' Between January and October, 14,246 people applied to join the force at all ranks, vying for 1,350 posts. This compares to 8,490 applications in the corresponding period last year - a 68 per cent increase. By far the biggest rise was in the inspectorate grade where successful applicants start on a salary of about $23,000. Aspiring women recruits rose by 103 per cent and men by 81 per cent, a slight drop from the first six months. A spokesman for the Correctional Services Department said applications for recruit posts were also up. By October, 7,003 people had applied to join the department compared with 5,940 for all of 1994. The spokesman said it appeared certain economic factors were also influencing the surge in applications. However, vacancies in the prison service are fewer. So far this year, 305 officers have joined, including 57 women, compared with 508 new recruits in the same period last year. There has even been an increase in traffic warden applications with 780 received so far this year almost three times the number last year and eight times the response to a recruitment exercise in 1990. In September, the police unveiled the first in a three-part series of advertisements in an $8.5 million aimed at toning down a perceived gung-ho image. Gone are the action-packed sequences, replaced by themes which prompt the viewer to consider the decision-making needs of police work. The second of the advertisements will be aired this month. The series is pitched at encouraging more intelligent and mature applicants; not the least because of a perception that, in the manpower crisis in the early 1990s, the force had to drop standards to ensure sufficient numbers.