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 419.

    Could under reporting be down to lack of trust in the police?

    We have seen police officers get off with murder, hassle motorists, smash down doors in military style operations for a couple of plants, so is it any wonder.

    I don't have a criminal record, consider myself to be a good law abiding citizen, but i don't trust the police due to previous experience with their bully boy attitudes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    #410 you're getting into fantasy land. An 1800s musket ball was a lump of metal. A modern bullet is lead, steel, copper and perfectly balanced. They haven't used gunpowder since Queen Victoria was on the throne. DIY cordite isn't so easy. Neither is a primer cap.

    'Entire magazines of bullets'....so they print a spring too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    Crime numbers are falling, and so are police numbers, so it must be a good time to join the force.


  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    I've seen videos of printed guns being shot, and from what I saw there wasn't a risk of them "blowing the user's hand off".

    I make gun parts for a living and when you've got your printed 3d gun I'll stand in front of you while you fire it.. because thats going to be the safest place to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    397. "...this post may put me at risk of prosecution as I have written something that somebody, somewhere, may not 100% agree with."

    Actually, good news on that one: recently, the planets aligned and Theresa May did something vaguely sensible, by repealing some of these laws.

    Then she went right back to normal and cut police starting salaries Just Cuz.

    That Miss Theresa, she so cray-zeh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    We have Lost a Lot of officers. so they cannot process the crimes. so they just get swept under the table. they are MADE to make them justify themselves. so they Only go for the big crimes. the dont bother with the small crimes. We NEED to Double the officers on the street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    "Crime continues to fall under this government... and is now at the lowest level since the survey began."
    You have to love these spinners don't you, "Oh yes the government is doing a wonderful job, hoorah, big claps." Don't forget also that unemployment and homelessness are down too.
    Narrow the current eligibility to qualify for said definitions and you'll always look good!

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    Lies dam lies and statistics, same goes for Cameron’s refusal to allow Medical Cannabis here, he states drug consumption is down but it’s not, of a weekend A & E’s are now full of drunks and legal high users who have O D’d , right now the legal highs usage in the UK is going through the roof yet “Dave” seems not to notice it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    390.Some Lingering Fog

    10 Minutes ago

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

    What stupidity.

    I feel a little healthy cynicism is in order when you cant even believe figures put out by the Police... Best to trust your own eyes and ears...

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    @402 Peter_Sym: "Won't work in real life. There's a reason guns have hardened steel barrels. Plus how do you print 9mm ammo?"

    I've seen videos of printed guns firing entire magazines of bullets. I suggest you look at the printed guns that are being made with metal, not plastic. Yes, I said "metal". 9mm ammo? Gunpowder is easy to make, and all you need to do is print the bullet casings/tips.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    My wife had her handbag pickpocketed and her card wallet stolen. She immediately reported it, with a description of the 2 offenders, to Chelmsford police station, who said she was probably mistaken and would find it when she got home. The thieves had by then stolen £450 from our a/c via a cash machine. We phoned the bank and stopped all cards access. The police STILL refused to book it as a crime

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    why is this no surprise, like the unemployment figures, all fudged to make as if this lot in power are doing good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    The magic keyword here is 'recorded' crime.

    You'll also find the 'unemployment is going down' and 'quality of living is going up' but for some reason I don't really believe these magical statements either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Amazing that the post by Joyanblu (88) became an editor's pick! I had assumed that the clip on the ear that the person responsible for that post received 50 years ago and thinks preferable to today's social worker approach must have affected his or her rationality. Seriously, it is a sign of progress that we don't allow PCs to hit our children anymore, surely?

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    another example is a male goes to the local shop & steals a crate of beer. He goes back the following day to the same sho & does the same again. He continues to do this for 30 days in total. How many crimes? 30 I hear you say. Nope, yet again one! As the offender is the same person & the victim is the same shop over & over again its one continous offence of shoplifting allegedly. Honestly!

  • Comment number 404.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    I cant help but comment as I feel so strongly on this subject. The government have the figures manipulated & fixed. If a person is punched, then has his wallet stolen, & then has his phone stamped on & broken during a disoute with another person, £ crimes? Nope, 1. As its the same person who committed these 3 offences the government insist one crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    375. Whitefall
    @352 Peter_Sym

    I've seen videos of printed guns being shot, and from what I saw there wasn't a risk of them "blowing the user's hand off
    I saw John Malowitz (line of fire) make a plastic gun with hobby materials. Hollywood is pretty amazing. Won't work in real life. There's a reason guns have hardened steel barrels.

    Plus how do you print 9mm ammo?

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    The words 'may' and 'possible' feature in the ONS report which simply translates to..

    'The absence of fact'

    I am satisfied without doubt that crime has fallen in my neighbourhood and I'm certain the reason it has is because I see uniformed police on foot patrol at all hours almost every day of the week.

    Tell your local police what you want and you'll get it. We do !

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Crime rarely effects Tory Boys......so it's of no interest to them.
    Life's a breeze behind security gates.
    They're also not interested in the Police Force.......unless it can be made into a profitable business, which is imminent.
    Don't expect it to get better anytime soon either.
    Hear that sound ?
    That's the sound of the screws tightening.


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