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 179.

    following a week away for work, i arrived home to find a very big foot print on side door of my house. Someone had tried to break in but the door held up. The door frame internally was shattered and it would no longer lock. I called west Yorkshire police to report the incident only to be told the damage to the door was not done by someone breaking it was due to the cold and they would not log it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Couldn't have put it better myself......

    The whole system is geared toward scraping in money from the good, honest, tax paying, law abiding citizens. Why? because we're easy to locate, easy targets.
    If your foreign, or have 15 aliases, or live in an entirely secretive community, or live in a certain area, you'll be perfectly safe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    have no police then there will be no crime recorded! simples, or even better no laws so therefore no crime. simpler simples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Surely the headline should be "Labour's David Hanson asked us to point out a possible conspiracy". Or did the BBC in fact see the Police recorded statistics published, ring the ONS for their take on it and then ring Hanson and ask him to put his spin on it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Crime has fallen by 2 measures
    - what the police tell us
    - what a v large, independant, randomly selected, survey on crime tell us
    The police think the drop is larger than the survey.
    The 2 obvious so-whats:
    - Crime is falling. Who-hoo! Yaa!
    - Media outlets decides to find a negative way to report this.
    Cheer up people

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    @164 ch21ss: "You are talking about violent crime from the sound of it"

    No, I'm talking about crime in general. The crime rate is about 2000 per 100,000 people. That's the highest in the whole of Europe, and 5 times higher than in the US.

    Crime is what's important. It's simply a crappy trade-off to exchange less gun ownership for a massive crime rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    My friend told me a story last week. A neighbour of his had his shed broken into and about £500 of tools stolen When the police came to take a statement he said they were not really interested and said its likely they will never find who did it so best you claim on your house insurance.


  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    You will find that in the West Midlands, the man on the beat has been told not to book anyone if at all possible, due to that once you have booked them it cost's £2000 pounds just to process the case.

    Saving money and gerrymandering figures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Someone somewhere is very good at cooking the books.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Police stations closing at a rate of knots and less police on the streets - is it a surprise that less crime is recorded when you can't find anyone to report it to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    A couple of months ago my local was buzzing with everyone wondering why the police helicopter had been above our houses all evening and the streets were suddenly full of police cars. It turned out the rumours of murder and rape were unfounded - a police officer's house had been burgled.

  • Comment number 168.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    There has been a widening gap between what is euphemistically called the perception of crime and the crime recorded - it's been happening for years. The situation is that the public simply do not believe the statistics anymore. So - are we surprised that crime is less likely to be reported to agencies that don't take action and then cook the books to reflect mystically fabulous performance? No.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Where was the BBC when Labour was lying about immigration? Oh yes, happily reporting the lie and telling us complaint was racist.

    146 "Which is a better indicator of crime rates, falling recorded crime statistics or rocketing household contents insurance premiums?" - Independently compiled crime stats or insurance premiums affected by a myriad of factors? Er... bad even for you SD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    There is huge fall in reported crime as there is no point reporting it!! Nothing happens, even the police will say unless the evidence is overwhelming then the chances of finding the culprit is almost zero.....

    Its no surprise the retailers aren't bothering to report their crimes either, it just wastes their staffs time and thus costs them even more money, so they just right off their losses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    "The crime rate in the UK has sky-rocketed since guns were banned.

    Sure, fewer guns, but WAY more crime. Great trade-off... >_< NOT!"

    You are talking about violent crime from the sound of it, but the reason for this discrepancy is because the definition of violent crime in UK statistics is much broader than the definition used by the FBI.

    Also guns are not banned in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    It truly beggars belief that some here think the antidote to all societies ills is the arming of the populace with guns. I choose not to live in a country where people are routinely armed and if that makes me more susceptible to being mugged for my smart phone then so be it. Phones can be replaced lives cannot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    If the police weren't so preoccupied creating revenue for HM treasury by means of seeking finable (taxable) crimes, such as expired tax/insurance/MOT, maybe actual crime rates would fall.
    Look at most of their new technology, all geared toward traffic offences and generating TAX. Drive in a bus lane you'll be sent a photo/fine. Get stabbed in a city centre and all 200 cameras are conveniently off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    In the HYSes on gun control last week or so, quite a few were indignant that those "ignorant" of guns (as in were not owners) should express opinions on gun ownership (so freedom of expression clearly isn't a right they wish to uphold). I presume they would rather see responsible gun handling such as this: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/19/accidental-shooting-gun-show/1847879/

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Here's a statistic i made earlier, in my area there's been a 32% increase in hooded thugs being dragged down the street by their staffs.


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