Crime Stats – Which to Believe?

Photo credit: James Hind

Last week details were released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in relation to current crime figures within England and Wales. The Home office has also released its latest police workforce figures. Both made grim reading.

Before I go on, I feel it is important to mention that I’m not a police officer, I’m not a politician and have no links to or preference towards any political parties. I’m just your average member of the public, concerned about the safety of my community.

Crime figures can very confusing. For a start there are two data types – those recorded by police forces, and those gathered as part of the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW). Thankfully, I read a great explanation and breakdown of them as part of an article by Alan Wright, a retired former Met Police officer entitled Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Country…  I would strongly recommend having a quick read to familiarise yourself with how the statistics work.

The latest crime figures released by the ONS state that:

“The police recorded nearly 5 million offences in the year ending March 2017, which represented an annual rise of 10%; this increase is likely to reflect a range of factors, which vary by crime type, including continuing improvements to recording processes and practices, expanded offence coverage and also genuine increases in some crime types.”

According to reports on Sky News, “Sexual offences were up 14%, public order offences by 39%, while knife and gun crime rose by more than 20%” according to ONS statistics. These are huge increases and should, and I am sure do, worry us all.

However, a second source (the Crime Survey for England and Wales – also detailed in the ONS document), shows a 7% reduction on previous years. It is very important to point out that the CSEW data does not include any statistics for a number of different types of crimes (for example, homicide and knife crime, amongst others). A detailed explanation of the types of crime that are not reflected in the CSEW statistics are available in the full crime figures document (accessible by clicking the “latest crime figures’ link above).

Government officials primarily use the Crime Survey of England and Wales data when discussing crime figures and speaking about policing. However, as mentioned above, these figures completely exclude figures relating to a range of different types of crimes and is seen by many as inaccurate and unreliable.

As a member of the public, I am totally confused. I’m sure I am not the only one. The public and police are told by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd and Prime Minister, Theresa May  that “police reform is working and crime is falling”. Is it though? Because there are some very large gaps in the data that has been used to draw that conclusion, and the data that is recorded by the actual police forces states a huge increase in crime, in fact, the biggest year-on-year increase in crime in a decade.

These reported increases in crime levels come at a time when the Home Office has released updated police workforce figures, which show that we now have the lowest number of police officers since the mid 1980’s – a time when our population was also lower.

I’m confused. As a member of the public, Government are saying one thing around how safe my community is, yet police officers and the crime statistics collated by their forces tell me another.

Some reports say that violent crime has increased massively, some say it has not. Our population has grown significantly, but we have significantly reduced police officer numbers – attributed by those who work in policing as being due to significant cuts in policing budgets (many senior officers have spoken publicly about this issue in recent months – particularly in light of recent terrorist incidents).

It is evident that crime trends change rapidly. For example, the recent sudden increase in acid attacks. I think that our police service do a fantastic job, in very difficult circumstances. It is important that we ensure that senior officers have the financial resources available to ensure that they can keep on top of these threats to our communities effectively and be able to ensure that adequate resources are available on the front line. It’s also important that everybody is able to ‘read from the same chapter’. By this I’m suggesting that crime recording and reporting needs an agreed formula, put together JOINTLY by the police and the Home Office, working together to deal with the challenges faced.

This will ensure that people like me, are less confused and remain switched on to what is happening, rather than like many as it stands; switching off from these important issues due to lack of understanding and confusion. I can totally understand why some do.

As I mentioned at the start, I’m not involved in politics, or the police. I’m just an ordinary member of the public concerned about my community. I’m not writing pieces in order to point the finger of blame at people, politicians or to point score. I just want to encourage people to think and form opinions for themselves and share them as part of a healthy discussion to try to improve society.

To those who protect us, thank you.



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