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 499.

    It is like every time the government want to make changes to any thing they have these numbers in % to hide real numbers and get people thinking there changes are working and are good but they would not put real numbers or amounts to them as this would give a different true picture of the facts

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    lies, damed lies and statistics!

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    Well well stone the crows yet more misinformation from this government, who would have believed it. They'll be tellig us next we are going to get a vote on Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    From Chief Constable to Government Statistics Dept

    Speeding offences solved = 99
    murders solved = 0

    Clearup success rate = 99%

    Its the incompetent reporting officers to blame, not the Government although there should be a lot more prosecutions for expenses fraud and theft by MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Just look around of course it is EXAGGERATED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    What, Plod being economical with the truth, mixing up fact and fiction and cooking the statistics? Never!
    Jolly good we now have police commissioners - they won't stand any nonsense, no doubt they will want to join in to justify their position too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    Kids who used to have time on their hands are now on their phones more so commit less crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    I was only robbed two days ago for the forth time (work in a bad part of town I guess) I blame the reckless spending cuts on FRONTLINE POLICE there is no way we have improved our crime rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Mr Loser

    Just pick up the phone...

    No mention of a signed statement. Without one is the crime officially "reported"?

    I ask as it is hard to get the police to take a statement (although on one occasion i found it easy, there were some where it was impossible).


    They had that topic yesterday, please try to keep up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    Isn't it obvious that real crime numbers are always going to be higher than reported crime?
    For example, who would report a speeding driver or someone using their iPhone while driving?

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    If it's actually true, and reduced lead in the air is a reason as claimed, then why is there not compulsory replacement of all the lead water pipes to older homes?

    Would help the economy too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    Well when the home office send out new rules on what is to be reported as a crime and what is not
    Changes every time the government want to make a point of how good they have done and give the impression there changes to the system are working but hide the real effect of there policies but he effect is that the police do not want to know about some crimes

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    483. shakespeare17
    Interesting choices for HYS today. BBC had gone very quiet about Cameron's EU speech now that he and the Tories have come out of it rather well.
    That's over on "Cameron EU speech: Business leaders give mixed messages". Check it out

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    If that's well I would like to see badly. Political opportunismm of the lowest sort, he wants to stay in the EU but risks leaving in order to win an election.

    In the cold light of day this will seem ridiculous and it's hard to say but ED's stand is much more pricipled and to the benefit of the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    what? the police lying again? can't be true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    crime down, unemployment down,...(funny why are we bothering then to build all these new superprisons?) it is just wonderful living in this new crime free, jobs in abundance utopia...

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Interesting choices for HYS today. BBC had gone very quiet about Cameron's EU speech now that he and the Tories have come out of it rather well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    Where i live there are lots of various drugs being sold and taken in pubs and private.

    There are also no police and as such next to no worry for dealers about being caught.

    99% of crime goes unreported and the police and politicians like it that way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    "Crime going down! .. Try reporting a crime..."

    I've never had a problem reporting a crime - it's not excactly difficult.
    Just pick up the phone and dial the telephone number for the police and report it.
    Whether the crime is solved is another matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    I've "reported" several "crimes" over the last few years, and only one occasion did the police turn up (only after i stated i was going to challenge the 3 criminals myself).

    That was also the only incident where i could file a statement (because they caught them?).

    For one other incident I considered "serious", I filed a complaint, and had a response, but no statement was wanted.

    I gave up.


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