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 119.

    Burglaries are obviously down because burglars can no longer afford to fill their vans up with fuel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    If you live in one county but a crimeagainst you is in another county the police will not investigate,nor will your own police unless you write to MP. There was then a so called investigation but they were not going to pursue someone who admitted he had them but sold some of our antiques at a boot fair!! We were told we could prosecute & win but he might not turn up at court or pay anyway. Great

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Statistics are utterly pointless because they are almost always presented in an skewed manner, say a politician trumpets a lower waiting time to be seen by a specialist, if it's been done at the expense of quality of care then it doesn't matter a jot, in fact it's a worse outcome, but nevertheless he gets to say the magic words "waiting times are down."

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Oh dear, I despair at HYS sometimes. The stats show a consistant trend of falling crime but that doesn't fit your cause so the stats are wrong seems to be the flavour. Why not just accept something maybe be working for a change and the cuts are not impacting as much as the Police Federation and left wing want you to believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    I can't remember where I saw this, but they reckon 5% of all road deaths are caused by drink driving. So reading into that, 95% are caused by sober drivers!?!?!

    Statistics, we all can play that game. Your a fool if you believe a word of it.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    The reason crime figures fall when we have a new government is because the new government changes the rules on recording crime. You only have to look at fraud - costs the country something like £17 billion a year but it's not recorded now - just report it to ActionFraud!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Now there's a surprise...

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    The main reason crime is falling is due to their being 10,000 less Police officers since the millionaires came to power. Less eyes on the street, less arrests, less crimes created. Lets see whats happening in a year when the true extent of the cuts bite.
    Never mind bankers will still get millions of pound of bonuses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    With well informed information I can tell you that crime hasn't fallen. Infact the totally opposite in some respects. Its just that chief constables pick and choose what they wish to record. On the street its obvious whats going. Yes, in some areas crime may have fallen, but in reality it hasn't. With more and more ASB and low level crime taking up more time of officers etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Well, Duh!!

    Does anybody really feel that much safer just because the 'official' statistics say so?

    Just goes to show that corruption and self-interest is not limited to the banking world, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Crime down
    Unemployment down

    Statistics never lie...........or do they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    How can you tell when a politician is telling lies?

    His lips move.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Surely the government who want to cut the police and armed forces to shreds wouldn't lie to us about over-stretched security?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Even though we have had in recent years more police than ever before & police pay has rocketed they are now less effective than ever

    Accountability for minor civil rights & health & safety matters has reached such a stupid level that the Police are very very risk averse to the point that they are now almost completely inneffective.

    Expensive but inneffective !

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    "Hello, is that the BBC? Labour HQ here, look Ed's screwed up again, Dave's merks him by promising a referendum Ed's gone and said he won't give people a vote on Europe because he knows best. We had to retract at a party level. Embrassing, can you run something negative about the govt? I mean more negative than normal? Thanks, more licence fee for you if anyone is stupid enough to trust us again"

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    The only crime figure that means anything is the murder rate. It's very difficult to make a murder go away.

    Comparisons with other countries are irrelevant because each country has it's own definitions of offences. The Americans are fond of saying UK has a higher violent crime rate. Shouting abuse at somebody in UK is classed as a violent crime. It's not in the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    In reality do you believe any figures produced by the government, crime, unemployment, inflation, GDP, education etc. It’s all lies political spin, if it isn’t then it is worrying if these figures are used to make major decisions. Look at the West Coast franchise disaster or better still look at our economy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Crime isn’t falling, on one bothers to report it as they know it’s a waste of time.

    The figures are fixed in order to justify this government ludicrous policy of firing 6000 front line officers

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Low crime is just spin spin spin, and allows osborne and his cronies to say "oh we dont need so many police as the service is changing with the times and crimes are falling due to more efficient policing" Absolute Bull!!!!

    I dont report any crimes i witenss as the police are not interested. Someone driving 35 in a 30 which they can make £50 in fine for the HMRC they are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    86 wrote - "Crime hasn't gone down but dealing with it has"

    pretty much sums it up


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