Monday, 19 October 2009

FUDGING CRIME STATISTICS IS NO WAY TO RESTORE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE


WHOOPEE!! Pass the rose coloured spex, crime is on the decrease, detections are on the increase. Or so the Government would have us believe.

Whilst the production of crime statistics remain the responsibility of the Home Office, the public faith in the Criminal Justice System will not be restored.

There are now countless examples of how this Government have manipulated the numbers to portray the impression that all in the garden is rosy.

According to research by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, trust in government Ministers to tell the truth is down from 27% (2006) to 22% (2008). Polls show politicians at the bottom of the list of professionals trusted by the public. What’s gone wrong, and what can be done about it?

At the most basic level, the Home Office has relied on the British Crime Survey to argue that violent crime has come down by 40% under this government, ignoring formal warnings by Sir David Normington, that ‘levels of the most serious violence are higher than they were ten years ago’. The BCS is an obviously poor measure of violent crime. It does not count homicide offences, rape and multiple assaults. It also excludes some of the most vulnerable victims of violence, including: the homeless, elderly people in care homes, students in digs and – until this year – all children. In fact, we know that police recorded violent crime has nearly doubled since 1997.

The Home Office clearly place great importance on the British Crime Survey (BCS), as this quote from the Home Office website confirms :-

"The BCS includes crimes which are not reported to the police, so it is an important alternative to police records. The BCS is a particularly important survey because it can provide a more complete picture of crime than police recorded crime statistics alone. The BCS includes crimes which are not reported to, or recorded by, the police and is therefore unaffected by changes in recording practices. It can provide the best guide to long-term trends in crime".

Reports from front line officers, of ridiculous levels of bureaucracy and procedure confirms what many of the public already suspect, that their effectiveness is severely impaired. This results in a lack of public confidence in the system of policing in the UK. How can the public be expected to have confidence in either BCS statistics or police recorded crime, when the BCS figures for 2008 suggest that over 10 million crimes were committed, yet the police recorded numbers amount to only 4.7 million?

Again front line officers provide an answer. They tell us that so much time is consumed recording and dealing with so many minor offences that are purely for the purposes of meeting political performance targets, that the most desired objective, providing protection where it's needed most, is the most impossible target of all to hit. This Government have introduced over 3000 new offences since arriving in office.

When Gordon Brown took office, he promised ‘a different type of politics – a more open and honest dialogue: frank about problems, candid about dilemmas’. And the reality? Back in June 2008, he responded to a planted question in Prime Minister’s Questions, by claiming ‘As far as CCTV is concerned, in the most recent experiment, in central Newcastle, CCTV reduced crime by 60 per cent’. Dig below the surface, and the study relied upon was not recent at all – but published in 1995. Whilst burglaries in central Newcastle allegedly fell by 56%, the wider area showed a fall in burglary of just 2%, whilst criminal damage and theft rose by 8%. The Prime Minister ignored as inconvenient subsequent Home Office studies (2005 and 2007) showing CCTV had ‘little overall effect on crime levels’ because 80% of CCTV footage is not fit for purpose.

THE WAY POLICE RECORD CRIME

Public access to information about crime in their local area has improved. And yet the Government still have not delivered on this promise to the full extent the public deserve.

The table below illustrates the 43 police forces of England & Wales, showing the population & households each force is responsible for, and the share of the national crime each polices.

The BCS is published in July each year detailing crime that occurred in the previous year. Six months have elapsed by the time the document goes to print. The statistics are already history, so what's a bit of manipulation and fudging here and there? The public will never know the difference, so why not exploit the opportunity to sensationalise and spin with inaccurate headlines? Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary in a recent speech, said that crime statistics are the least important part of the problem. Well, he would say that when the years of manipulation have served only to diminish public confidence still further.

Only by opening the books and exposing the real picture, will there be an opportunity for reform.

Have a look at the table. Of the 43 police forces 34 subscribe to the same analytical software that the public may view for the current crime in a particular area.

The top nine forces in the table police 41% of the population & households and a massive 48% of the nations crime. Yet these same forces are permitted, perhaps even encouraged to utilise their own software that is not as easily interrogated. The question has to be asked whether this is yet another Government strategy to make the collating of national current crime less accessible. The national picture of current crime is not easily obtained. When 48% of it is made difficult and laborious to compile, there are not many who would bother. And so, once again, the Government continues its charade of falling crime.

Click the table to see full view


Beyond the Home Office, the manipulation of government information has become endemic. The government has fiddled the figures on numbers claiming Jobseekers allowance to mask the true state of unemployment. The Treasury has disguised the level of government debt. Last year, the National Audit Office criticised the government for the way it counts carbon emissions, to overstate its record by up to 12%.

This is bad for policy-making – if you cover up the problems, how can you solve them? It also erodes public trust. Government must be much more honest about the challenges facing the country, if we are to begin to tackle them. Short-term spin must give way to proper long-term strategic thinking. That is the way to restore public confidence.

We would advocate and support the proposal to make crime statistics properly independent. This would remove responsibility for compiling and publishing crime figures from the Home Office, who clearly cannot be trusted to be truthful with the electorate and not to apply their political spin. The reposnsibility should be placed with the Office for National Statistics which is totally independent. The pre-release access that Ministers and political advisers get to crime statistics should be abolished – so the public would be the first to get an honest account of the facts. Any politician can talk about resuscitating public trust. The party that demonstrates their intentions and follows it up with decisive action that is genuinely in the public interest, will have the best chance of achieving it.

Crime Analysis Team
Nice 1 Limited

1 comments:

Crime Analyst said...

Online crime maps 'could wipe thousands off house prices overnight'

An interactive map offering detailed crime statistics on every street in England and Wales could wipe thousands off house prices in certain areas, experts warned today.
The Crime Map website was launched yesterday to boost the public's confidence in the police service by giving people more information about crime where they live.
A click of the mouse allows users to zoom in on any area they choose and find out about crime levels in the village, town or larger area selected.
But today The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) warned that the 'sensational' publication of crime data could seriously affect house prices.
The new interactive website shows the level of crime in central London and sub-divides crimes into five different categories
A RICS spokesperson said: 'Whilst RICS fully supports efforts by the government to reduce instances of crime, we question the value and purpose of publishing this information.
'We are concerned that it may produce a disproportionate adverse impact on local house prices - not too dissimilar to the effect of school and hospital league tables.'
It said: 'In the current economic climate, publicising in a sensational manner high crime areas in such detail could literally wipe thousands of pounds off property values over night, further disadvantaging those who are already struggling to make ends meet.'

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