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 99.

    One million percent of statistics are exaggerated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I thought it was a bit counterintuitive that crime would decrease at the same time as living standards.
    Now we know the deficit isn't down either, perhaps we need an ombudsman to hold politicians to account - all of them - for porkies and half-truths as well as expenses

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Of course the fall is exaggersted. Most of us wouldn't even bother to report burglaries, assaults, breaches of the peace, etc, as we know the police wouldn't bother to investigate. My car was kicked in by some youths a few years ago and I tried reporting it, but the police weren't interested.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Independent surveys indicate a falling crime rate . The Police own figures exaggerate the fall as they are inclined to not record minor offences and chief constables like themselves and their areas to look good .

    Personally if there was no travellers in the area where i live the crime figures would fall by probably another 20% . Controversial statement but probably closer to fact than fiction

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    The New BUZZ word Bobbies on the Beat have been handed by their management.

    Is Restorative Justice!

    ie. If you pay for the goods you steal or say sorry you can be dealt with using RJ.

    No Crime Recorded, No Paperwork, Bobby still on the Beat.

    Lets record how often RJ is used and we might get true crime figures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    "81. Whitefall
    Britain has the highest crime rate in the whole of Europe, and one of the main reasons for that is because people can't defend themselves (and their property) with guns."

    So what's the explanation in the rest of Europe, then? They too have pretty strict gun laws. Sorry, but you can't have your cake and eat it on this one. What's the murder rater difference between USA and UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    The incidence of crime is not reducing. People just don't bother to report it because nothing will be done about it - other then the person who reports it getting loads of forms to fill in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    What is this? We're being lied to again? SNAFU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Most people I know don't report "minor" crimes any more because the police can do nothing about them. It's just more time and work for us. The only reason to do so is if they're making an insurance claim and need a crime number. I've tried contacting police to let them know eg when intruders are snooping in gardens, but again they don't have enough staff to do anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    In my household, its assumed that politicians will lie and fix anything to show their self perceived worth.

    This is not news. This is the norm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    81. Whitefall
    "Britain has the highest crime rate in the whole of Europe, and one of the main reasons for that is because people can't defend themselves (and their property) with guns"

    How do you explain the higher crime rate in the US then if guns reduce crime?

    Absurd logic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Crime doesn't pay? I got a clip on the ear from my local bobby 50 years ago for scrumping apples. Now we keep social workers, psychiatrists, , doctors, magistrates, judges, lawyers and liberal do goody groups all in employment filing their reports finding excuses for bad behaviour, then the appeals system.Crime is needed to keep unemployment down. Crime hasn't gone down but dealing with it has

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Most people nowadays, especially those who live in areas where it is prevalent, no longer bother to try to find an open police station to report acts of vandalism or anti social behaviour. They know it will never be investigated, and the most they will get is a crime number if they need to make an insurance claim. The police might find it cheaper to put a crime number issuing machine in the foyer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    81. Whitefall
    Britain has the highest crime rate in the whole of Europe, and one of the main reasons for that is because people can't defend themselves (and their property) with guns.
    May I suggest you move to the USA with its incredibly low crime rate due to free availability of guns. At present I can defend myself quite nicely with my hands. Give the bad guys guns & I can't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Does anyone believe or pay any attention to government figures/statistics at all? I wouldn't think so, any figure can be presented or "massaged" in such a way as to show whatever is required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    No-one in my town reports minor crime any more. More alarmingly, people's definition of 'minor' crime is changing.

    My 10-year crime history:

    Robbed at knifepoint
    Assaulted (x4)
    House burgled
    Car broken into (x2)
    Car vandalised (2-3 times a year)
    Carjacked (at knife-point)

    Only the burglar was caught (by me!). He received no custodial sentence.

    Thanks police, so glad I pay taxes now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    This is happening all over Britain, apparently getting rid of people and finding new, better ways of working leads to greater efficiency and improved results. And if you believe that you'll believe anything and of course if the results don't improve you can always make them up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    It's apparent the police are concentrating their man power to either arresting celebrities for something that may have happened 40 years ago or trying to hunt down people filmed mouthing off on trains that have circulated on You Tube. Basically wastes of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Britain has the highest crime rate in the whole of Europe, and one of the main reasons for that is because people can't defend themselves (and their property) with guns. If they do happen to defend themselves, they get punished/imprisoned. In Britain, the criminal is king, and the honest citizen is the victimized peasantry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Its a waste of time even reporting anti social behaviour yet alone serious crime in my area, the police seem more bothered about box ticking and community relations rather than policing. We have a serious drug dealing problem as well as gangs of youths causing trouble and yet we are expected to swallow the "fall" in crime. In my eyes crime has risen not fallen.


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