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 79.

    Whether it is 17% or 33% crime is falling.

    Must be good news, surely?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Mister Point

    "Perhaps if the money "invested" in the recently elected Police Commissioners had actually gone into putting more Bobbies on the beat,"

    Maybe , maybe not . What is obviously true is that left to their own devices, senior polices officers are willing to manipulate figures or simply lie . The only reason for that can be to either maintain or advance their position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    As the police don't respond to some reports of crime, classify some crimes as lower-level ones when they're not, record multiple crimes in the same place as one crime, and no doubt simply fiddle the figures in any way they can, it's no surprise that these figures are meaningless. Anyone who lives in the real world and sees what goes on every day knows that crime is not falling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Of course it's exaggerated. . . . . . Just like the 'fall in unemployment'

    Do they now think we are all blind and stupid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Reclassification (a common political tactic) is NOT a reduction .. it's a fudge at best or as we call it in the real world ... A LIE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    For me, there's a "hidden figure" in police recorded . They do not include offences like tax and benefit fraud (by HMRC and DWP) and mobile phone theft, which is increasingly dealt with by insurers. It also depends on the offence categories included, not to mention how individual crimes are counted. Are numerous incidents repeated in a short period ca counted as one criminal incident?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    @44 aggrivate tresspass is. If the intention was to commit a crime then it should have been recorded. When PCs/front office staff are trained they are told not to record crimes unless they absolutly have to. You'd be amazed at how many thefts get recorded in the loss registra. Police are corrupt and dishonest and this is just one aspect of how this is demonstrated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    "Jeremy Browne said: Crime continues to fall under this government and is now at the lowest level since the survey began."


    How many people have experienced crime & concluded it's a waste of time reporting it because bugger all gets done about it?
    Jeremy Browne may believe this pack of lies but the public don't.
    They should know after all they are the ones at the sharp end of it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Well there is a surprise!!!! No amount of spin or clap trap that is produced the voters know that the crime figures are massaged to fit their "masters".
    The sooner this bunch of idiots are out of office the better.
    Wonder how they will perform in their new roles at the Companies they have secured for themselves!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    why report a crime when you know full well nothing will be done about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    My experience is that many crimes that would previously have been reported & are now treated by the police as too inconsequential to deal with

    The public simply don't report minor crimes because they know the police response will be apathy, too busy etc

    I had £1000 Yorkstone stolen from my wall, we had a witness who identified the vehicle at a local traveller site

    Police did nothing

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    It does not surprise me. The last tiem a crime was committed against me the police did not do anything until I submitted a formal notice of Judicial Review against them for failing to do their duty in upholding the law.
    the police are a waste of space and money and the CPS are even worse.
    Get rid of them, let us have guns and the UK will be a lot safer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    A fall in REPORTED crime.

    People have given up reporting 90% of crime. In most cases people only bother reporting it if they need a crime reference number for an insurance claim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Surprise, surprise. About the first thing any social science student learns is that 'recorded crime' has a very limited link to actual crime. Nobody has to 'fiddle' anything; there are just so many things or combinations of things that effect one or the other but not necessarily both. Politicians just cherry pick what looks good without troubling about the 'why' or 'if'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Is a fall in offences recorded an improvement, or does it reflect how hard it is to report a crime?

    How hard is it?

    Ring 999 and be told off as it isn't urgent enough for them.

    Visit a Police Station, (if you can find one), and queue for rather a long time. Be told that next door's party isn't a crime, or that, (an excuse I've often heard), it's a civil matter, (so not a "crime").

    Oh yeah!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    The biggest criminals are the ones who never get caught and they are the ones that keep coming up with these figures in the first place. Fact of life we've got more people now in the population, and more people afraid to walk out at night. Not a case of A+B = C ,Crime is even more visible today to those who've got eyes to see it...but no-one want to admit it and have to do something about it

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    the police only seem to choose what they want to do and no one trusts them anymore they are not doing the job in hand and make up reports to make them look good, who do we trust anymore !!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Just wait until G4S are running our crime services - crime numbers will quadruple overnight as payment by performance leads to ever more 'creative' bookkeeping!

    So on one side we have politicians lying to justify shrinking the state, and on the other we have the replacement private companies lying to justify the ever increasing costs.

    Who voted for this? Anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Why are people surprised by this? We see news stories regularly about officers charged with corruption, selling information, abuse of power and position, institutional racism, drug use, and there are clearly problems all the way up through the chain of command. We're now supposed to be shocked that they fiddle their own statistics? Trust in police and politicians is so low it's almost dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I bet many people don't even bother reporting minor crimes anymore as they know the police will do little to find the culprits


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