Car crime fall key to historic low in crime rateOverall crime rate in England and Wales falls by 45% since 1995, with car crime down from more than 1.1m to 456,000 a year . . .
Alan Travis guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 June 2011
A dramatic and sustained fall in car crime over the past 15 years has been a major factor in the 45% drop in the overall rate for crime in England and Wales since 1995, the biggest fall since the second world war.
The official police-recorded figures for car crime – which include stolen vehicles as well as thefts from cars and vans – have fallen from more than 1.1m a year in 1997 to 456,000 in 2010.
In the 1990s car crime accounted for more than 20% of the overall rate of 5m offences a year. But the success of the car manufacturers in improving security has helped reduced that share to 11% of the 4.1m offences recorded by the police in 2010.
The reductions, plus those in burglary, another high volume offence, and domestic violence, have proved the key factors in reducing crime to historic lows.
Home Office criminologists say that the introduction of home security measures, such as alarms and window locks, and the fact that car manufacturers now fit immobilisers and other security features as standard have been crucial in reducing crime.
But some car insurance firms claim the figures have been artificially suppressed by "misallocating" car theft statistics under house burglary, whenever an offender breaks into a home to steal the car keys.
There seems to be a consensus that break-ins to steal keys are making up a greater proportion of burglaries – possibly up to 20%.
Home Office figures also show that keys were used in 85% of car thefts where the method of theft was known. Of these, 37% came from burglaries and 18% from the owner leaving the keys in the car.
But the 18,600 incidents of car-key theft for 2008 compares with a total of 160,000 cars and vans stolen that year – too small a proportion to make that much difference to the overall trend.
THIN BLUE LINE COMMENT
Car crime has undoubtedly fallen since the days of poor security and much credit for this goes to the manufacturers, security industry and the thatcham research centre.
However, we should not kid ourselves that it has fallen to the extent the police recorded crime (prc) suggests.
Theresa May was so doubtful of the integrity of PRC, she commissioned the National Statistician, Jil Mattheson to conduct a review of crime statistics.
Performance targeting within the public sector, including policing has led to the corruptive practices of "gaming" within PRC and detections process. Chief and senior officers have been paid huge bonuses to demonstrate that crime has fallen, throwing massive clouds of suspicion and doubt over the integrity of the statistics. Rank and file officers in their thousands report that figures are fudged on a daily basis to achieve this.
If a communal dwelling block is burgled, with say 20 houses burgled and 20 cars stolen, this is reported as ONE offence.
Car crime is typically reported as an incident NOT a crime unless the victim makes a full statement, thereby suppressing the real picture considerably.
We witness this every day in our business providing vehicles to car theft victims.
If a vehicle is taken without consent and recovered without damage, it will rarely be reported. If recovered with damage, it is reported as criminal damage to a vehicle which again reduces the car theft statistics.
We have the Home office figures for the last 10 years to demonstrate how incidents are shuffled between categories to convey the impression that car theft is falling.
Wherever possible, police record car theft as vehicle interference, a summary only offence that again reduces the numbers of car theft crimes recorded.
When an offender serves a custodial sentence, he is interviewed to admit further offences which are treated as TIC's but without the associated court penalties. Officers will tell you that vehicle crime is the most volumous "detected" because it is the easiest to write off in this manner. Offences are reclassified at this stage, always downward to suppress the real picture.
So whilst car theft is less prevalent than the 70's and 80's, do not be misled into believing it is to the extent that the Home Office and police media would suggest. As a retired police detective who conducts regular in depth analysis of police recorded crime and detections, I can confirm this yet another Home Office example of political spin intended to convey the impression that crime is under control.
Sadly, vehicle crime is only one area we have highlighted, where the integrity of crime statistics and detections are in serious doubt. The regulatory bodies of ACPO/HMIC/IPCC and even the Information Commissioner have avoided their duty to expose the gaming activity for fear it will further damage public confidence, reflecting the organisational nature of this corruptive and divisive area of activity within the service.
To be persuaded crime is going down, look at the Government figures. To be persuaded it is not, look out of the window.
Friday, 17 June 2011
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