Friday, 5 February 2010


Cooking the books on crime
Is it just a game to Chief Police Officers?

Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary and the Tory Party were accused of fiddling crime figures this week, by suggesting violent crime has soared under Labour rule.  Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling was accused of damaging public trust in official statistics today.

The row revolves around changes in how violent crime has been recorded since 2002. Instead of police deciding whether an incident should be recorded as violence, the system now requires them to do so whenever an alleged victim asks them to. As a result, the level of recorded violent crimes soared by an estimated 35 per cent in the first year the system was introduced. The Home Office has warned that the statistics for before and after 2002 are therefore not comparable.

Sir Michael Scholar, head of the UK Statistics Authority, also told Mr Grayling his use of the figures 'seems to me likely to damage public trust in official statistics'. Sir Michael said the British Crime Survey, which is based on interviews, provides a more reliable measure of national trends.
Chris Grayling said he did not distort statistics and denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the Home Office itself had used the same data set to draw comparisons on other issues. He said: ‘We don't create crime figures. We use the official crime figures published by the Home Office. The Home Office has continued to use the same comparators.’

Mr Grayling said: "Like everyone else we will continue to use recorded crime statistics, because they reflect an important reality; that the number of violent crimes reported to police stations, and particularly serious violent crimes, has increased substantially over the past decade, even taking into account any changes to data collection. The Home Office itself admits this in its internal documents."

Home Secretary Alan Johnson labelled the Tory information ‘dodgy statistics’ used by the party ‘to talk Britain down’. If ever there was an excellent example of "A Pot Calling The Kettle Black" - this is it.
An accurate system of recording is the true measure of how effectively a Government deals with crime. When Alan Johnson stated at the Labour Conference that crime statistics were of least importance, it was a weak deflection tactic, protecting the illusion of reduced crime this Government has spun for so long.

Turkeys Don't Vote For Christmas

Just as turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, Alan Johnson and to an extent, even Sir Michael Scholar are hardly likely to concede that the crime figures are as badly flawed as readers of these pages know them to be.

As you may have seen from our articles from this site based on data from the Home Office, ONS, MOJ, Dft, DVLA and other sources, supported by front line police corroboration, the Home Office process of collating and presenting crime statistics can no longer be trusted as a measure of crime in the UK.

Cooking The Books of Crime

The rot in recorded crime and detections goes back many years. The senior management have long since relied upon their store of tricks for “cooking the books”, or “Gaming” as it has become known. It was interesting to see the retired West Midlands Detective Chief Inspector, Dr Rodger Patrick confirming these practices are still prevalent in the Telegraph article :-

"Cuffing” “Stiching” “Skewing” and “Nodding” are all familiar terms to both the front line and Chief Officers, as methods of manipulating the numbers to perpetuate the illusion of falling crime. We know from our front line contact that the practices remain endemic across the forces. Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation said: "This research demonstrates that senior officers are directing and controlling widespread manipulation of crime figures. The public are misled, politicians can claim crime is falling and chief officers are rewarded with performance-related bonuses."

Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, published an official report into the way police record violent crime and admitted the figures may be skewed by "perverse incentives" around government performance targets.

As Dr Patrick discovered though, the HMIC and Police Standards Unit have displayed a general tendency to underplay the scale and nature of the practices. It certainly begs the question as to why there are no examples of Chief Officers being brought to book, or even publicly criticised for this type of crime figure manipulation. Apparently, the HMIC refer examples of widespread gaming to the Home Secretary or police authority, rather than "hold the chief constable to account" because of the risk of political embarrassment.

It seems improbable that Mr Johnson would be amenable to approach on this subject as it would undoubtedly open the can of crooked worms they have cultivated these past twelve years.

We concur with Dr Patrick when he expressed the view that HMIC inspectors should be made accountable to Parliament rather than the Home Office, and suggested they should be drawn from other professions rather than solely from senior police ranks.

The months between now and the end of the financial year are particularly challenging within police circles for reporting crime.  In particular, the challenges and pressure are aimed at the front line rank and file. These months see a marked increase in pressure from Chief Officers cascading down through the ranks, urging officers to “censor” the crimes that are reported. The reason for this is clear. The Chiefs are massively financially remunerated with bonuses for decreased crime and increased detections and this is the last quarter when they can exert pressure down the line to protect their "gravy train" from derailing.  

Over on the Inspector Gadget pages this week, his recent article draws attention to the increased pressure exerted by Chief Officers from now until the end of the financial year.  To quote Gadget :-

“They must not, under any circumstances, get out on the street and find any more crime. Not until the next financial year anyway. All their accumulated leave (and there is lots of it being as we don’t pay overtime any more) is to be taken between now and April. It’s best to have them out-of-the-way, they just can’t be trusted to stay indoors”.

How crooked the system intended to prevent and detect crime has become. You only have to read some of the officers comments on the Gadget post from all around the country to see that the pressure and corrupt practices are rife. Whoever assumes the mantle of Criminal Justice will face a mammoth challenge unraveling this pernicious conspiracy and web of deceit that has been foisted upon the tax payer.

BCS –vs- Recorded Crime

Seriously flawed as it is, the current two level method of measurement is all there is to measure the level of crime. However, when the BCS, based on a survey of 40,000 people “estimates” the crime numbers for 2009 to be in the region of 10 million and recorded crime reflects a little over 4million incidents, there is clearly a massive disparity between the processes. How can the Home Office expect the public to have any confidence in crime levels whilst this continues?

So, please forgive our cynical smiles when Michael Scholar accuses Chris Grayling of conduct that may damage public trust in official statistics. Sir Michael says that the British Crime Survey, which is based on interviews and estimates, provides a more reliable measure of national trends. WAKE UP Sir Michael! This Government and their twelve years of lies and manipulation have crucified any trust the public might have had in crime statistics. Mr Grayling has only peeked into this can of crooked worms up to now, wait until the whole sorry mess is crawling about on the table top for the world to see.

So, what did NuLabour do, rather than choosing the honest, more difficult alternative? We've witnessed them drown the public sector with bureaucratic systems, build management teams to pilot fancy projects, recruit the Chief Officers and management teams, including ACPO to enforce their dirty work and pay scandalous bonuses to elicit their support. They created the NPIA, a police improvement "Quango" to supposedly set high standards for the service, yet now sets the most disgraceful example of wastefulness and profligacy.

None of these have yet proved their value or effectiveness.

It seems this Government will do anything but apply simple common sense back to basics solutions that work.

And possibly the worst internal crime of all, that by far eclipses the MP expenses issue.

Chief Officer Bonuses

We recently examined the 43 police force recorded crime performance levels and produced a report disclosing our findings. We looked at Chief Officer pay scales and bonus structures. In our most visited article and downloaded analysis of recent months, we looked closely at the connection between the illusion of reducing crime and Chief Officer pay.

The Home Office concede that as much as 50% of crime goes unreported. This doesn’t mean the non reported cases do not exist, they do. Furthermore, the police, though not reporting crimes, by reallocating or misreporting incidents are disguising the real problem. How can a Local Authority allocate adequate funding or resources accurately based on such wildly differing statistics?

We have reported in some detail our observations about the process in our reports. (We have the recorded crime statistics going back to 1898).

The above article presents alarming evidence supporting a widespread belief that the manipulation of crime statistics forms part of a conspiracy to deceive the public into believing that crime is decreasing. The orchestrators of this deceit are the Government and Home Office, aided and abetted by senior police officers, who are obscenely rewarded for their part in the conspiracy.

Front line police officers are unable to untangle this web of deceit, despite protestations by many with an informed and accurate perspective at the public facing coal face. Distortion of the figures has led to misallocation of financial and human resources, resulting in the public being deprived of the policing it deserves. The gravy train of police funds has been milked and the “con” disguised through years of bureaucracy, performance targeting and distraction techniques, making the task of basic policing more difficult to deliver.

There is plenty of evidence that there are senior officers who are paid grossly disproportionate salaries and bonuses for perpetuating the deceitful illusion of crime reduction. The honour and distinction of achieving a high rank in public service has been replaced with greed, with a convenient blindness to the immorality of their actions. A full, transparent 43 force public enquiry is needed to force the disclosure of these illicit payments and inducements. Among the most disturbing are the revelations of Heather Brooke in the Guardian, about the perks and expenses of Sir Hugh Orde the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. The rot is clearly embedded within the “root and branch” culture of the highest ranking police officers, when the man who is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the Chief Officers in England & Wales sets such an immoral example.

The consequences are dire and plain for all to see. The victims in all of this are the tax payer, who is deprived of the police service his contributions are intended to provide, and the front line police officer who is forced into silent acceptance and resignation of a job that has become enmeshed with bureaucracy, risk averse policing and fiddled crime figures. Who could blame officers that have no faith or respect for senior officers and politicians who orchestrate a criminal deception of the highest magnitude for personal gain, and then expect the staff on the ground to do their dirty work with no resistance?

Alan Johnsons’ proposal for cutting frontline police overtime by £70 million is not in the best public interest. A more appropriate target for savings surely lies within the senior officer pay structure. Our report shows that there is plenty of "fat" that should be cut from that source before even considering such an essential as operational police overtime.

We support the proposal that crime statistics should be 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 responsibility 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.

Click here to view our report on the "TOP COPS PAY & CRIME SCANDAL" The report enters into some detail about the secrecy surrounding these payments which serves only to feed suspicion of a boys’ club stitch-up. Chief constables need to be open on pay and perks if trust is to be restored, not only with the public, but also with the front line officers who also feel cheated. Respect for Chief Officers is at an all time low and we have to sympathise with the front line officers who feel they are doing the dirty work of the Chiefs, betraying the public trust and feeling pressured into compliance.

No one should be surprised to see the dramatic changes to the crime reporting processes that occurred during the Labour ministry. What a clever game of smoke and mirrors they have played. Obfuscate, disguise, confuse or even blatantly lie about the statistics to prevent the truth getting out to the public, that they have failed spectacularly to handle the problem honestly and effectively.

The wider public have been well and truly conned by Labour. The police rank and file have become embroiled in a tangled web of deceit. The challenge is a scary one, because it involves the unwinding of many years of conspiratorial, deceitful conduct. But change it must if we are to move forward.

Whoever assumes the mantle of Home Secretary will face many obstacles from the media and Labour, who will not want the truth revealed for fear of the damaging consequences. The fact is public confidence is shattered almost beyond recognition and it will take a supreme dose of courage and perserverence to take the necessary remedial action necessary to start healing the wounds that have been inflicted.

Our recent articles and analytics about crime reporting :-


archytas said...

Hi CA,
There's a lot of good stuff here. I've just spent a few hours looking through the BCS and was very disappointed. I'd just looked at another area the people who do it are 'researching' and found their questionnaire more or less hopeless as a means of extracting my views. This, of course, is a major problem with survey research.
The IPCC has wasted a lot of money recently on such a 'total population' survey and seems to have excluded a more sensible approach of asking victims what their experience has been. A really small piece of work some years back showed almost no one is satisfied with their work.
My first impressions are that there is little point in getting suckered into accepting the BCS. The method may be reliable (if you and I did the same stuff I guess the results would be the same), but it lacks validity - I just don't think it describes the reality of crime and its effects.
It would be easy here to lapse into the blather about differences between quantitative and qualitative research. Yet I've seen much better ways of going about effective research without this distraction (which academics love). I need to do my own write-up, but in the meantime thanks for your efforts. Something you mentioned on 'complaining about the police' is particularly important - we need to get more people who are suffering as victims together.

Unknown said...

I've published an anonymous version of a letter to Greater Mudville's Chief Constable at allcoppedout. It's very noticeable that no 'statistics' really get into what is really going on. Rant only at this stage. Analysis later.

Anonymous said...

Generally speaking, the argument about taking resources from where they are wasted on high salaries, perks and ineffectiveness is a good one. Most people at the sharp end know the resources are not going to dealing with the problems - they are stolen by an elite group as surely as aid to the third world.
Beyond this we have education all wrong and can't even work out decent, available jobs are an essential component.

Annette said...

The question is, who do we believe?
Because of the changes and what category you put the crimes in, it will alter the crime rates, surely.

Crime Analyst said...

Bang on the nail Annette.

The whole recording system has become distorted beyond the point where either recorded crime or BCS crime can be seen as credible.

Both systems are badly flawed.

Recorded crime can be massively manipulated by Chief Officers if they so choose. The single largest recording category is property related and this is the easiest area of all to fiddle. When you dig deeper into the guidelines for reporting crime (set by the Home Office & ACPO) there is even greater scope for manipulation. If there is any uncertainty about a crime, it can be reported as an incident as opposed to being crimed. Incidents (and there are many, many thousands of them) do not appear in the crime recording system. As such, there is a massive opportunity to show decreased recorded crime by fiddling this subset of figures alone.

Just one example we have witnessed was that of car key burglary. The Government proudly boasted that car crime was down 5% in 2008/09. Yet there were 18,600 offences concealed and misallocated to burglary and robbery (cars stolen after a house burglary or robbery are not reported as car crime). 1000's of car damage offences are switched to simple damage and often not crimed if even reported. When the 18,600 burglary for car key incidents were added back in to car crime, it revealed a comletely different picture to that presented by the Government to the media.

The worrying part is that Chief Officers receive such large bonuses for reflecting crime reduction. (a Government introduction). There is no incentive to report the true picture.

The BCS figures are an estimate only, based on interviewis of 40,000 people. We would question the validity of the survey as it is not truly representative, yet even the BCS shows, year on year, that actual crime is at least double that of recorded crime.

Whilst the crime stats are fudged or flawed to this extent for political and financial gain, we struggle to see how any credence can be placed on either set. The sad fact is though, the Government, conspiring with Chief Officers have perpetuated the deceit od reducing crime to pass dodgy figures to the media for years.

The deceitful practices we have highlighted here are tantamount to corruption and criminal conduct in public office that makes the MP's expenses look like petty theft. The HMIC turn a blind eye for fear of the bad press that would result and the senior officers have become expert at deflecting the attention and blame toward the front line troops.

In the corporate world, the owners of a company that is so badly flawed (and the stats are just the tip of the iceberg) would engage a specialist hatchet man to weed out the rotten apples, thoroughly cleanse the business of its corrupt influences and implement new systems and practices to ensure transparency and honesty going forward.

Unfortunately this is the upper echelons of policing and the Home Office we are talking about here. The whole criminal justice system is on life support and a sticking plaster will not suffice to fix this one.

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