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 399.

    I've seen videos of printed guns being shot,"

    CGI technology has got really good, hasn't it? Very hard to tell from the real thing nowadays. Even The Hobbit seems so real you feel present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Kinda sad that so many people are proudly admitting that they would not bother to report crime and then accusing the police of fudging the figures within a paragraph.

    Unless you genuinely expect the police to know about crimes you don't report through telepathy or something, how on earth are the stats supposed to reflect the reality?

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Our fine and trustworthy police force making up statistics and reports?

    I don't believe it for one second!

    N.B I understand that in the light of recent arrests this post may put me at risk of prosecution as I have written something that somebody, somewhere, may not 100% agree with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    During periods of recession you'd expect crime to go up, dramatically. But I ask myself, whose agenda does a supposed fall in crime while reducing police numbers suit? And the answer surely isn't the Force...

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    I think you WILL find that "the fall in crime" is actually , as always , NOT actually a fall in crime , but in recording crime reports , whereas at one time ALL crime was recorded and properly dealt with , all too often now "crimes" are ignored or written off as non-crimes , either that or they do not include statutory offences in the count. Lies ,damned lies and statistics as they say !

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Camberley Police station is only part time. It's not as if Camberley is a small town. When I found a wallet and tried to hand it in there was just a phone on the wall. The police officer told me to try and track down the young lady whose wallet it was through Facebook using the credit cards inside... Fortunately I was able to find her parents home address. I just hope she got home ok.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.


    1. under-reported or
    2. decreasing.

    I vote for "1".

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Governments of all colours manipulate official figures to suit their purposes. As an example in the 80's and 90's the method of recording unemployment figures was altered 27 times. With 24 hour news and a greater ability to investigate these matters we are not as easily fooled.

    Perception of crime is a better indicator than highly selective recorded crime figures.

  • Comment number 391.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    It is funny that people only tend to believe official statistics if they coincide with their ideological blinkered view of life.

    What stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    The Police aren't interested... and as an example burglary isn't classed as a serious crime - odd, I was burgled, called the non emergency number and was urged to report the crime and it was throughly investigated. Sweeping generalisation?

    344 clue : the standard Daily Fail... - you wrote Mail as Fail, genius! Everyone who disagrees with you reads that paper. Persuasive!

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    How do you know in the case of the US that they're excluded?"

    Because there are about 30,000 gun deaths including suicides and accidents and about 12,000 a year not including them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    WHAT!!! Shock and Horror, some official figures may be wrong.

    The day I will be shocked is when any government department release figures that are accurate and not at all misleading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    No, crime is up, reporting is down. Just another example proving the British peoples opinion that the justice system is failing in this country.

    If I was a victim of a minor crime I wouldn't give myself the hassle of reporting it. Time off work to go to court to be ripped apart by a lawyer provided by the tax payer, then no punishment, not worth the bother.

    I'm not alone and criminals know this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    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 think it's a question of resources. Any organisation with a finite budget has to prioritise. Solution: increase their budget.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Don't believe crime figures have fallen at all - we need to check the jobless figures as well !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Is anyone surprised by this. Given everything involving police corruption in the last 18 months do we even have expectations of basic competency for them now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    One issue is the courts, when the police do catch the criminals and spend all their time putting the case together, collecting statements, gathering evidence, it costs money, the criminal gets let out with a slap on the wrist.

    Seems that some crime isn't reported to police not because the police won't deal with it, more it's not worth reporting/recording because the courts won't do anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    376.Still breathing

    G4S = 10 minutes pressing 1-5 options, to finally be told there is no one available via a voice recording.. oh and that'll be £4.50 Sir.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Matt. People commenting on here aren't being selected by anyone. They're commenting of their own free will. Certainly not being selected by the ONS.

    Now granted, 360+ replies on a blog isn't the most reliable source of data, but it's no less reliable to ME than figures given by bodies such as police and politicians who I perceive to be dishonest.

    These people have no credibility left.


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