Friday, 18 February 2011


"Gaming - Cooking the Books" of Crime Statistics

As regular visitors to these pages will know, one of the most contraversial subjects that we have reported on most frequently in depth, is the manipulation of crime statistics and detections. Shortly after her appointment as Home Secretary, Theresa May scrapped the plethora of police performance targets in an effort to free up our police officers to focus on one single objective, what the front line police really want to do, what they do best and what the public want most - simply to cut crime. 

The challenge that faces the Home Secretary, the policing minister Nick Herbert and their team, is that confidence and trust in the integrity of recorded crime and police detections is at an all time low. This lack of trust is fuelled by years of political interference, linking crime reduction and detections to senior officer bonus payments and selective focusing by the media. Until this confidence and trust begins to return, any genuine advances in this area will be received with scepticism and suspicion. 

We have written at length in previous articles detailing the various tactics within the practice that has become known as "Gaming". Previous articles and reports on the subject can be accessed via the links at the foot of this piece. In summary, we conclude from our dialogue with serving officers from all over the UK, that the practices of statistic manipulation remain evident, perpetrating what we have called the "Crime of the Century" - a pernicious conspiratorial deception in an attempt to fool the public that crime has decreased and detections have risen. Officers of the highest rank appear to have colluded at worst, condoned at best, practices that amount to "Cooking the books" of crime for personal financial or career gain. Politicians have used the statistics to gain political advantage in the most blatant point scoring exercise, all based on the fallacy of falling crime and rising detections.

Taking courageous and sensible steps in an attempt to bring about reform, the Home Secretary has invited the National Statistician to conduct an independent review of crime statistics with the aim of increasing public confidence in these statistics. The Home Secretary has decided that the publication of crime statistics should be moved out of the Home Office to promote greater public trust and demonstrate their independence. The review is due to report at the end of April 2011. It is then intended to run a public consultation on the recommendations from the review.

The review will:

•consider gaps, discrepancies and discontinuities within crime statistics;
•recommend the best future location for the publication of crime statistics, and their associated data collection systems; and
•produce an action plan for the implementation of recommendations from the UK Statistics Authority’s report Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics: England and Wales published in May 2010.

The full terms of reference for the review can be downloaded from this link.

The National Statistician will use the following criteria in evaluating options for the future location of crime statistics. She will look at the impact on:

•public confidence in the statistics;
•quality of the statistics;
•burden on data suppliers;
•cost and efficiency;
•statistical expertise and capability; and
•uses and user needs.

The National Statistician would like to invite comments on this review and has published a news release to this effect which can also be downloaded from this link.

To feed your views into the review please respond using the Word template available for download by clicking here. Please send this form back via email or post:


Crime Statistics Review
National Statistician's Office
Room 1.015
Government Buildings
Cardiff Road
NP10 8XG

The Overcoming Barriers report states:

Most commentators would agree that measuring crime and reporting on crime statistics are inherently difficult. The crime figures for England and Wales, for which the Home Office is responsible, have been subject to many improvements over the years and, in terms of technical quality, they compare well with corresponding statistics for other countries.

However, there continues to be public criticism of the statistics and mistrust in the way that they are used and quoted. As far as we can tell, this exceeds the level of criticism and mistrust in most other countries.

Research and previous reviews have suggested that this mistrust is exacerbated by the nature of some media reporting of the statistics. This may, in part, reflect wider mistrust of official information, not just statistics, but there are factors inherent to crime statistics that may also play a role:

• the existence of two major data sources (police recorded crime figures and the British Crime Survey). Both sources are essential to create a full picture, but their different strengths and weaknesses lead, on occasions, to a degree of public and political confusion and present an opportunity for selective and misleading quotation and reporting

• the difficulty of ensuring consistent recording practice across the 43 territorial police forces and the British Transport Police. The counting and classification of crime after it is reported to the police is a complex process; and changes to the rules and guidelines are necessary from time to time as problems emerge and are resolved, or in order to reflect changes in legislation. This is a proper part of a process of continuous updating and improvement, but it can also generate suspicion and confusion.


Theresa May, in appointing the National Statistician Jil Matheson to review the process, has begun to prize the lid off the "Can of Worms" of crime statistics. The greatest cause for concern is that those who have benefitted most from the orchestrated manipulation of the numbers down the years are adept at disguising their activity or worst, deflecting responsibility downward to the rank and file officers who have been instructed to carry out their strategies.  

The absolute facts must be unearthed if true confidence is to be restored. If, as it is believed, some Senior Officers have abused the process and knowingly received bonus payments for crime reduction and detections that have been manipulated, the scandal that will emerge will undoubtedly eclipse that of the MP Expenses saga. If proven to be the case, the consequences are worse, in that it would involve our most senior and previously trusted police officers, who are expected to conduct themselves in the most exemplorary manner. If this is, as we believe the case, the truth must come out if the slate of crime statistics is to be wiped clean and moved forward with honesty and transparency. If senior officers have knowingly perpetrated or condoned such activity, we must ask and answer the tough question: "Are such officers fit to be controlling our police service?"

From all the evidence we have compiled, from serving, former and retired officers all around the country, we have every reason to suspect that Jil Matheson will face resistance to uncovering the absolute truth. We hope that she will demonstrate the courage and determination to expose any improper activity and that the Home Secretary will deal with any transgressions quickly and publicly.

Concern exists over the "regulatory bodies" of the HMIC (Her Majesties Inpector of Constabuary), the IPCC (Indpendent Police Complaints Commission), and the IOC, (Office of the Information Commissioner), all of whom have been aware of the "Gaming" practices prevalent in our police forces, yet have brought no individual or force to account for fear of the further bad "PR" this would undoubtedly create. If the regulatory bodies have indeed failed in the execution of their respective duties, Jil Matheson, Theresa May and all who seek transparent and honest reporting will face an immense challenge.

The majority of this activity, if and when reealed and proven, will be shown to have taken place under the Labour administration, focused as it was with all the pubic sector, on performance targeting accompanied by financial incentives. This is a divisive tactic, open to abuse and manipulation and Theresa May has a limited window of opportunity to expose the activity before the opposition can weaken her argument that this took place on their watch.

A simplistic view is that the proposed introduction of Locally Elected Police and Crime Commissioners may in part, have been born out of a mistrust of the senior officers to exert proper fiscal control over the fiefdoms Nick Herbert is keen to break up. An extension of this line of thought is that perhaps this is partly why policing was not "ring fenced" and protected from the budget cuts the service now faces. Could it be that profligate spending combined with fudged crime statistics have contributed to the belief that the forces can now achieve "more with less?" and that so many officers fear the security of their future?  


Here at the Thin Blue Line, we are compiling our own submission to the National Statisticians review. We intend to pull no punches. Coincidentally, we are in the process of compiling our own, in depth report "Crime Of the Century", which will appear on these pages when complete. This will accompany our submission to Jil Matheson.

Rank and file officers are naturally fearful of the consequences of speaking out about strategies imposed on them by their senior officers. We have collated numerous examples of "Cuffing", "Stitching", "Skewing" and "Nodding" in forces all around the country. For the uninitiated, or those who simply need a reminder, we have explained these terms below:

1. ‘Cuffing’ is about making crime seem to disappear by failing to record it. The term ‘cuffing’ derives from the magician’s trick of making something disappear up the cuff of their shirt. This is associated with an ‘evidential’ crime recording standard which places the onus on the victim to establish that a crime has been committed. This allows officers to use their discretion on whether or not to accept the victim’s account and record the crime for investigation. This has a long association with ‘gaming’, as officers are known to use a variety of tactics to prevent the crime ‘appearing on the books’.

2. ‘Stitching’ is the fabrication of evidence. Whilst the use of such tactics to secure convictions at Court has largely been addressed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, administrative procedures still offer the opportunity to obtain detections in circumstances where there is in-sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. These procedures include cautions, informal warnings, and in some circumstances an offence could be recorded as detected without the suspect being made aware of the allegation against them.

3. ‘Skewing’ is about concentrating effort and resources on areas subject to performance indicators. This involves investing less in the investigation of the more difficult and resource intensive areas of police activity, such as the prevention and investigation of serious crime i.e. child abuse and sexual offences. It could also involve the re-deployment of officers to more affluent neighbourhoods where crime is easier to investigate and detect (Patrick 2004).

4. ‘Nodding’ refers to the practice whereby suspects ‘nod’ at locations where they have committed crimes and are able to have them ‘written off’ without any risk of increasing their sentence. The legitimate aims of this administrative procedure is to reduce court time and enable offenders to admit outstanding offences i.e. ‘clean the sheet’ prior to sentencing. This allows the courts to impose a sentence which takes into account the extent of the offender’s criminal activities and alleviates the offender of the fear of being re-apprehended after they have served their sentence for an offence committed prior to incarceration. This administrative procedure has a long history of abuse and appears in two formats; ‘offences taken into consideration (TIC)’ and ‘prison write offs’, which allows offenders to confess to offences post sentence. In these circumstances a senior police officer or member of the Crown Prosecuting Service (CPS) would make the decision to charge on the grounds of whether the individual was likely to receive an increase in their custodial sentence. In both cases the police should have sufficient evidence to charge the suspect if they subsequently decline to accept the offences as TIC or ‘prison write off’. These procedures have long been associated with abuses involving collusion between officers and suspects. The offer of inducements in return for admissions lies at the heart of these illicit exchanges.

Readers are of course free to click the link to the contribution document above and to send it by post or e mail to the addresses supplied. However, there will be many officers who will wish to expose what they believe to be improper practices they have been instructed to implement, but are fearful of exposure and the consequences. (We are only too aware that the police service does not yet protect well intending officers as well as it might). For those officers who wish to contribute anonymously, we would welcome examples that we may include to demonstrate where changes are necessary. These contributions can be made directly to our e mail contact address at the foot of the page, or via anonymous contribution on this or other similar pages.


One final point. No doubt readers will by now have seen and perhaps experimented with the online crime mapping at Whilst well intended, the site is at its earliest stages of development and we hope it proves to be an invaluable tool to inform the community of instances of crime in their local area. However, until the process of recording and presenting crime statistics earns the reputation for transparency and accuracy; and the integrity, trust and credibility of the data is restored, the jury will remain out on this one.

Our recent articles and reports about crime reporting :-

(hopefully the link label will decribe each article sufficiently).


Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle . . .

By Reasonable Man

Seems like a waste of money to me. The National Crime Recording Standard was introduced in an attempt to make sure that all forces recorded crime to the same ethical standard. Whilst bosses are getting the blame for massaging the figures it is just as much the fault of the constables who fail to record all the crime they should - usually based on whether they believe the victim or not - which they defend by claiming that they use their common sense and discretion.
No mention of the British Crime Survey that, since the introduction of the NCRS, has tracked Official Figures in the reduction of crime. So unless those who conduct the BCS are in bed with the police who record the crime it is clear that crime has gone down.
As for the practice of 'Nodding' since prison right off's are no longer primary detections and so don't count in official detection rates how can those be used to skew the figures?

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle . .

By baby elephant

It seems to me that things can be guided by CID or the crime desk, as it was at my old nick.Not only that but at certain times 'guidance' came from the Home Office that certain crimes had to be recorded on a crime sheet, in a way different to what the definition of that particular offence was,the end result being that the statistics would, surprise surprise, show a drop in that particular crime.

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police

By Reasonable Man

Don't know how long ago that was BE but it was recognised several years ago that those forces where the crime recording decision was independant of the investigation/detection performance recorded more accurate figures. Forces were encouraged to adopt such a structure.
In my force the crime desk is in a centralised department over which CID etc have no control. It took a while but the local DI's now realise that crime is recorded according to the rules not their wishes.
If your Force Crime Registrar is doing their job then the CID should be towing the line.

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle

By BIkerider

Massaging of crime figures has been going on for as long as I can remember. For instance (and this is only a tiny example) in the early 80's in our area we were inundated with thefts from cars, principally radios, and the damage caused to get the items was often of a far greater value than the value of the items stolen.

Each car broken into in a specific car park used to be recorded as one individual crime even attempts to steal were recorded individually. Then the edict came (I don't know where from) that if say car park 'A' had 5 vehicles attacked and property stolen or even damaged that was to be recorded as 1 crime only. Each victim was given the same Crime Number if he requested it for Insurance Purposes.

That to me was wrong, it gave the incorrect information when statistics were produced at the end of the year. I suspect the order to do so came from our Divisional Det Chief Supt, to make the figures look better than they actually were but obviously I could not prove it.

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle

By oldbill1969

I believe there is an interior motive by the HMG with regard to this. They are well aware that crime figures have been manipulated by the Police, over the years in attaining their set targets. What better way to ensure that we do not get any public support when we challenge the review of our pay and conditions. We will be labelled cheats, HMG will also be using the data to identify where targets have been skewed in relation to what Chief officer required to achieve their large bonuses.
That's my thoughts anyway......

Crime Analyst said...

Posted by Police Oracle

By oldcopper

I don't KNOW whether crime has decreased or not but I do KNOW that, when I was serving, I saw crime statistics being massaged and manipulated on a daily basis.
Many and varied were the imaginative methods used to advance this statistical chicanery and I think I had more acrimonious `discussions' with senior management on this subject than any other.
Have things changed since I retired? The truth is, I don't know, but serving officers of various ranks tell me crime statistics are still manipulated and one very senior officer who publicly proclaims a huge reduction in crime in his Force admits privately that the stats. are still `fiddled' and boasts that this is done with greater professionalism that it was during my service.
So, at the end of the day I don't really KNOW the truth of the matter. However, if it IS the case that crime has reduced, and if this trend continues, I might begin to understand why HMG seeks to diminish the size of the UK Police Service.

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle

By oldcopper


Each car broken into in a specific car park used to be recorded as one individual crime even attempts to steal were recorded individually. Then the edict came (I don't know for certain where from) that if say car park 'A' had 5 vehicles attacked and property stolen or even damaged in the same day, that was to be recorded as 1 crime only. Each victim was given the same Crime Number if he requested it for Insurance Purposes.

I remember similar instances. As a newly promoted Inspector, officers on my relief attended a housing estate where 19 cars had been broken into in the course of one night. They recorded this as one crime until I intervened and told them to submit a further 18 crime reports. They told me they were only acting as my predecessor had instructed them.
On another occasion I was called to a wedding reception where gatecrashers had caused a fight and 8 guests were seriously assaulted.
I recorded this as 8 seperate crimes, but my Superintendent told me I should only have recorded one crime. I asked him what would be the position if the assailants(s) responsible for these crimes were detected and he told me that, in that case, 8 crimes should be recorded as we would then be dealing with `detections.'
Would any currently serving officers care to comment on these examples?

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle

By IveToldYouOnce

Would any currently serving officers care to comment on these examples?


I was told to do that about 5 years ago, but haven't heard of it happening recently.

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle

By Maverick22

Same as above, 11 caravans were broken into on a site, I submitted 11 Crime 1's, and was told by the D/I that just one CID 1 should be submitted. The next day I arrested the culprit and submitted just 1 CID 2(detection) form, but as quick as a flash I was told to submit 11 as they were detections. The fiddling of figures has been going on for ever and a day.

Crime Analyst said...

To visit the Police Oracle pages to view this forum entry cut and paste the below link into your browser :-

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle

By mooman

"Cuffing" is often well intentioned. eg. a ten year old pushs another to the ground with no injury. NCRS says crime an assault. Common sense says words of advice. Words of advice are not detecting this crime and this is not a position an PC wants to be in with the neverending demands from management for more detections.

NCRS is inflexible and as soon as a crime is recorded it starts a chain of events that are simply not always appropriate or proportionate for the incident.

TICs must surely be one of the most significant sources of stat rigging. We have teams set up almost exclusively for the purpose of eliciting these golden nuggets. I have seen crimes with named offenders disappear from my queue because someone completely different has tic'd it!

The fixation with stats is demoralising for the front line who simply want to do the job they thought they signed up for. improving detection rates is rarely linked with improving investigative standards and more often than not officers are encouraged to be creative and reference off with all the accidental or non-crime type explanations no matter how far fetched.

Crime Analyst said...


Many thanks for the contribution. Your views reflect a growing concern from the rank and file. I agree that used with a modicom of common sense and discretion, cuffing does allow officers to use words of advice where they are more appropriate and used more frequently would reduce the degree to which undeserving people become criminalised when words of caution or advice woul be a better use of police powers.

We are collecting a frightening level of evidence on TIC's. In particular, the conversion of prison write offs to TIC's where no court attendance follows. Whilst possibly well intended, it is wide open to gaming abuses and there are distinct patterns evolving from the data that reflect most if not all forces are hugely dependant on this course of disposal to maintain detection rates. It's all a bit fallacious though as you dig deeper. There are countless cases of TIC's being allocated against offenders who weren't even made aware offences has been written off to them. A number of embarrassing cases have come to light where prisoners were actually serving custodial sentences on the dates they are alleged to have committed offences they have agreed to have TIC'd, which supports your experience of someone coughing to offences they most likely did not commit.

The evidence we are collating suggests lots of different tactics that fall within one of the definitions and despite a process that on the face of it, appears to have been improved, still contains a massive web of deceitful practices.

Your last paragraph echoes the anxieties felt by most well informed officers. I recall my days as a DC when it was much the same. By hook or by crook rather than improved investigative skills and standards. None of which helps the individual officer or the service as a whole and only diminishes public confidence still further, when activity that amounts to no better than cheating are suspected or discovered. The problem lies with senior management turning a blind eye or even condoning such practices and rest assured, the rot goes to the top in some cases. We have evidence (some confidential from FOI requests) that confirms that HMIC, ACPO, IPPC and the IOC are fully aware of such practices but have done little or nothing to bring those responsible to account. Hardly suprising then, that there is sufficient mistrust in the hierarchy for the coalition to press so hard for locally elected crime commissioners and to demand "more for less" with the current wave of cuts.

The fudging of crime and detections has undoubtedly played its part in creating "authors of their own misfortunes". Regrettably, a lot of innocent well motivated officers may end up carrying the can.

Steve B
Retired West Mids

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle Forum

By sykes
In my force the chief and the rest of the SMT have made a big play on how they have increased detections and reduced crime year on year, they make big nosies about how this is to continue the fact is as we all know we will never be in a position to prevent all crime, in any force area there will be some point where without a major rethink there are not the resources to make any noticeable reductions
The question is what do the SMT do to justify there salary, request budgets increases, etc the answer is to 'review' what /how we record crime

for a number of years TIC's was the big thing pushed hard by all the bosses, who then boasted about how many crimes had been 'detected' obviously there are different views on the merits of this but it looked good in a press release

Violent crime is our increasing crime apparently so now we have direct instructions that Sect 4& 5 public order offense are not to be used unless exceptional aggravating factors should always be breach of peace of D & D, Never arrest for affray always section 4 public order

Now it might not seem much but we have 2 large cities in our force massive problems Friday / Saturday night with alcohol related violence, remove all the public order offenses for one year in for this alone and you see a significant 'reduction' in violent crime according to the figures, the offenses are still committed just not dealt with accordingly

Crime Analyst said...

Posted from Police Oracle Forum . . .

By oldcopper

The following examples might be useful:-
(1) Haulage contractor aproaches local CID and informs them of supected (internal) theft of large amount of diesel from his depot over period of time. Is told not enough evidence to justify investigation. He then engages firm of private investigators who take obs. on depot and se employee enter during the night (false key) with apparently empty jerry cans. Soon afterwardshe exits depot, places jerry cans (now apparently full)in car and drives off. Private investigators follow and see him take jerry cans to premises of taxi firm. Obs. continue on depot and a few nights later same enploye enters premises as before. When he exits on this occasion he is detained by the private investigators who contact Police and jerry cans are found to contain diesel. Employe will only admit to stealing the diesel on the 2 occasions he was seen by the private investigators. Denies all knowledge of the large scale/long term theft of diesel and taxi firm also deny knowledge of the latter. Employee pleads guilty in court to 2 counts of theft of relatively small amount of diesel but CID submit crime report for the full amount of diesel which the haulage contractor estimates he has lost and claim detection for that (much greater) amount.
(2) a couple are wakened from their slumbers by intruder who is searching their house. They shout at him and he exits the house empty handed and disappears. PC arrives and takes particulars and when he returns to his station to submit crime report he gives his inspector a verbal report of the matter. The latter, on learning nothing has been stolen, that suspect could not be identified and that SOCO found nothing tells PC not to submit crime report unless the complainers ask for a crime number.

Anonymous said...

This is a really complex area. The big problem is how easy it is to lie behind and control 'statistics'. The word derives from Greek times, means 'sate numbers' and was a subject of derision back then. There is nothing new in lies, damned lies and statistics.
Even in hard science the numbers we use often lead to many different speculations, even though they are produced by expert observation and recording blah, blah.
Forget the easy blather on 'questionnaire design and the multi-variate hobnob' (I always go in search of more tea and biscuits). None of it would pass academic criticism. We should be asking groups of cops, ex-cops, victims and so on in much more depth. Has crime gone down because we have been targeting burglaries, or have we converted burglars to 'borrowers-from-shops' and so on? Has crime gone down because police and BCS figures show it has (they rarely agree other than on trend), if the cost overall has gone up, or are our measuring devices outdated?
Like other ex-cops, I saw plenty of gaming, including pressure to put crime numbers up (after years of cuffing) because promoted posts now relied on number.
Our CC is now saying he can ensure better policing with less numbers and less spending. Tempting to sack the fool for wasting so much time doing this earlier, isn't it? I suspect many more of these useless types across the country are saying the same, towing the new political line.
If crime is really going down we would be planning for fewer cops, lawyers, social workers, judges and prisons. Yet our prisons are full and plenty many of us think should be banged up aint.

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