Fall in crime in England and Wales 'may be exaggerated'

The scene in Stockport, where an off-duty police officer was killed at the weekend Violent crime makes headlines but overall crime against adults fell in the 12 months to September 2012

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A study of crime trends in England and Wales has suggested the fall in offences recorded by police may have been exaggerated.

The Office for National Statistics said the "rate of reduction" in recorded crime "may overstate" the decrease.

Shadow policing minister David Hanson called for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to look at the apparent discrepancies.

The Home Office said there was "no simple answer" to the apparent anomaly.

The ONS compared certain categories of crimes and found police-recorded offences had fallen by 33% over the previous five years, while data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales suggested a decline of 17%.

The ONS also published crime figures for the 12 months to the end of September 2012, which showed continued falls in virtually every category.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said police recorded 7% fewer crimes than the year before, while the Crime Survey of England and Wales indicated there had been a "statistically significant" fall of 8%.


A decade ago new methods of counting crimes were introduced across England and Wales to iron out inconsistencies between police forces and ensure that when a victim reported a crime, it was properly logged.

The rule changes came about after huge variations were discovered in crime-recording rates. For the first five years, under the new system, there was little difference between the reduction in crimes under the police figures and the decline measured by the Crime Survey of England and Wales, suggesting the new rules were being followed closely.

But since 2007, there has been a marked discrepancy: have the police simply become lax in their approach - or are they deliberately cooking the books?

The ONS does not provide the answers - but HM Inspectorate of Constabulary might. Last year it examined the way offences were recorded - its report will make interesting reading.

'Informal pressure'

ONS statistician John Flatley said the bigger falls in police-recorded crimes may be due to pressures to meet targets on crime reduction and detections.

"It's more the culture and informal pressure of having targets and expectations," he said.

Other possible reasons for under-recording suggested by the ONS include more low-level crimes being dealt with informally and outside the formal crime-recording system, with officers given greater discretion.

Mr Flatley said it was also "possible" that reductions in police budgets and officers meant fewer offences were being recorded.

He said as resources were more stretched the "balance shifts" to less compliance with crime-recording systems.

Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said crime was continuing to fall and was now at the lowest level since the survey began.

"Police reform is working. We have swept away central targets, reduced bureaucracy and these figures show forces are rising to the challenge of doing more with less. Many have achieved significant reductions in crime with reduced budgets," he said.

'Build trust'

Shadow policing minister Mr Hanson said: "There are warning signs for the police and Home Office, with the increase in theft. And earlier this week the British Retail Consortium's survey showed an increase of over 15% in the cost of retail crime alongside a drop in the proportion of crime reported by retailers to the police from 48% to 16%.

"This is perhaps why the Office for National Statistics has begun to express concern that apparent reductions in police recorded crime may be exaggerated.

"The home secretary should examine urgently whether, as the ONS suggest, the cuts to police budgets mark a return to fewer crimes being recorded by the police."

A Home Office spokesman said: "As the ONS highlights in their report, there is no simple answer as to why there has been some variation in crime trends between the Crime Survey and police-recorded crime. The two measurements were always intended to assess different things and have different strengths."

The spokesman said the Home Office had transferred the statistics to the ONS to "build public trust" and was "continuing to work with forces to ensure accurate data".

The Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on statistics, Douglas Paxton, said the study had noted the quality of crime recording by the UK police was "amongst the best in the world".

"Ensuring our data is as robust as it can be has a direct impact on public trust and confidence and we will continue to ensure forces continue to meet the national standard when it comes to recording crimes," said Mr Paxton, Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    27. family guy
    The Police & crime Commissioner is a completely different thing from the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission). If you want to know who our Police & Crime Commissioner is it's a simple case of googling it, but since ou don't know the difference between the PCC & IPCC you might have some difficulty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Simply put, our political class is riddled with corruption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The fall in recorded crime comes from the people. We reporting less because we know there's no point, especially for minor incidents (like yesterdays report on the death of petty vandalism!). When the police don't show up for two days when you've been burgled what's the point in calling them for other incidents. There's still plenty of crime, the figure shows our lack of faith in the police.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Hardly surprising. We had intruders on our allotments, they went in sheds and pulled stuff out etc but because we could not report anything stolen or damaged the local police would not list it as a crime (no crime number) just classed as a suspicious incident.

    What ever happened to Tresspass?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    So, the figures are iffy? Major Data!

    Do we ever expect Govt. figures to be right? Except when they are claiming for their mortgages and light bulbs perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    With so few police around here many people don't even report crime. This is all nonsense. We need village coppers again, and police on the beat who know the area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Police have been routinly putting people off reporting crime for ages upto the point of being rediculous. When my wife's car mirror was smashed outside our house metpol refused to record it as a crime 'as it may have happened in an RTA'. Umm, not really seeing as it was parked on our drive. Waste of time even picking up the phone to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I wonder if crimes commited by the police were included in the statistics. On second thoughts they can't have been as we would have seen a massive increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    If current trends in the fall in crimes continue we should only need a few Bobbies and a man with a pencil and a ledger come 2020.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I remember hearing a college lecturer say "you must remember that statistics can be used to show anything you want", so I've always taken "official" statistics as simply portraying what a particular Govt wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Vested interest in statistical manipulation shocker

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Whinging poms or not I have never seen a single crime reported be myself resolved yet when I picked up a speeding fine their efficiency in tracked me down was breath-taking, ACPO should have been disbanded when they launched Police commissionaires to be honest they have manipulating data for years...

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Am I alone in not knowing who my local IPCC is? I'm very suspicious when Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne is already crediting the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners (IPCC)...giving they were only elected a month ago

    why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Officers have been saying this for years - less crime is being recorded because less is being reported yet more is happening.

    @ 11 Dave_Cheshire - that's not crime, it's a kid on a moped causing a nuisance. You were lucky you even got a visit to be honest. We have so few resources these days that we only deal with things that are in our targets (even though May says we don't have any).

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    We've had 4 years of recession (ignore official recession, I'm on about what people experience & not devious official numbers) since 2008.

    In all previous recessions crime has risen substantially, hence after 4 years of recession, reported crime figures do not equate to historical crime evidence reality.

    Police/NHS/politicians/bankers you CANNOT trust the stats they produce (invent)

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    "A study of crime trends in England and Wales suggests the fall in offences recorded by police may have been exaggerated."

    Key word here is RECORDED. By who? The police.

    How many offences were kept off by the books by the police then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    A fall in crime is good news but the media are not allowed to report good news because it turns people off so let's dress it down as bad news so we can turn people on!


  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Thing the same could be said of the employment figures!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Have you ever noticed the following ?

    When crime rates are reported as decreasing, that's always put down to better policing.

    But when crime rates are reported as increasing, that's always put down to "better recording methods".

    Hmm, funny that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I usually enjoy reading peoples comments on here but on this subject my god can people winge and whine. And speak with great authority about things they know nothing about. My father in law describes the english as winging poms. He is right.


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