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 519.

    If crime is going down why are our prisons so full?

    "Blah blah blah crime has gone down under our government" (attribute to any party)

    "Blah blah blah we need more prison spaces because of the policies of the last government" (attribute to any party)

    Somehow it never quite adds up........and smells distinctly like a dairy farm

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    I had a wallet go missing on a train......reported it (for insurance purposes) and received three calls from the police at various times to update me on my case progress, ask additional questions after they watched CCTV...and asked if I needed victim support.

    Hard to find fault with that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    Just think if the ConDems get rid of all Police there will be no crime !!!

    Bet its in their next Manifesto.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    Not all 'crime' is recorded as a crime, it may be recorded as ' an incident ' ie your car or property is vandalised - incident, car broken into and property stolen - incident, if however all crimes reported are falling as fast as reported then Mr Alun Micheal you will not need to increase the South wales precept by more than inflation instead of your proposed inflation busting 7% will you ?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    Interesting this,crime stats falling on the surface,but when subjected to further scrutiny a DIFFERENT picture emerges?

    Makes one wonder what ELSE has been inaccurately recorded?

    Perhaps SOMEONE should revisit & examine the UNEMPLOYMENT figures more closely?

    "Lies,damed lies & statistics"!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    There is no fall in crime. If they add in the number of criminals who have been handed cautions, who should have been charged and taken to court the figures would change dramatically. We need these new commissioners to step up to the plate and stop the police taking this easy route. The people don't want criminals like these getting slapped wrists, we want them locked up and off our streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    The BCS is just that - a SURVEY of a sample of the population.

    The Recorded crime figures are those that the police have recorded having had it reported to them, and while the police might not always record the crimes properly, a SAMPLE is not always correct either.

    If you make more laws, there are more laws to be broken - so crime "rises"..... so we pass more laws, so.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    British Establishment in lies & deceit shocker. Wake up Brits, they all lie/provide dis-information because they are ALL fronts for the banking elite.

    I don't doubt most join up for good reason (same with MPs), but they're all corrupted, knowingly or otherwise.

    Besides, is this a surprise? People have given up reporting crime because the police don't have the resource to investigate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    Don't worry because help is on its way; soon we will have an army of 19 year olds equipped with their NVQ's in policing to protect us against rising crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    Bankers crime is up but their too rich and powerful to jail them.
    Tax payer bailout to these banks, but pay little fines to what they stole, then the tax payer will end up paying more for the privileged and the tax payer are also part of the scam for putting money in in the first place to bail them out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    Police officers working in their communities, detect crime. The cuts by this government to policing have reduced police officer numbers to woefully unacceptable levels and this contributes to the apparent fall in recorded crime. Its not a fall in crime, its the unfortunate inability of the reduced numbers of officers to be able to adequately cover their areas. The government are fooling no one

  • Comment number 508.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    Ohh come on, we all know the police are compulsive liers that like to bend and twist everything to suite themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    When I reported crimes of fraud, theft and misconduct in public office, police insisted that these are NOT crimes but are civil matters and I should go to the Citizens Advice Bureau! Needless to say none of these crimes have ever been recorded, nor have any of the many others committed by various criminals and criminal gangs (such as the IPCC) in the resultant cover-up of the Police crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Because of the UK's silly cannabis laws, I'd never phone the police in fear of them smelling some of the "demon" weed on me. I think it's the same for a lot of people and until the divisory drug laws of this country are changed.a lot of crime will remain unreported as a result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Next your be telling me that public sector analysts are used to having to make bad figures look good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    How long will it ast now the Govt'd pet PCCs are in place? Many have promised more "Bobbies on the beat". That might reassure you but despite gut instinct it does not reduce crime.

    To reduce crime criminals need to fear getting caught and all the evidence shows Police off the beat, working the evidence, cross referencing with other Forces etc is the best way to catch criminals.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Having been the victim of a crime of vandalism this year and the appalling Police non response I have concluded the Police are too busy fiddling the figures, to actually do the work they are paid for. I have lost All respect for Police in the Uk now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    493.Old Father Thames

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

    Mobile phone theft has rocketed.

    "Mobile phone thefts surged last year with more than 700,000 handsets stolen, a Home Office report revealed today.

    This government contradict themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    @487.Parallel World
    'That's over on "Cameron EU speech: Business leaders give mixed messages". Check it out'

    I notice they still haven't touched the "Islamic Jihadi's armed by NATO in Libya now fighting western troops in Mali, and Assad in Syria"


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