We’re not fiddling crime figures says Mersey Police Commissioner

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Recent national press stories relating to police fiddling crime figures downwards should not worry residents of Southport or the Borough of Sefton says Jane Kennedy. The former Home Office Minister now £80,000 per year Merseyside Police Commissioner was being quizzed by Southport Lib Dem Councillor Tony Dawson at Sefton Borough’s Performance Scrutiny Committee.

Mrs Kennedy said that Merseyside Police had a history of being scrupulous with their crime figures which meant that for years the local statistics had sometimes appeared to be worse than those in other forces. So she had confidence that the local figures were correct.

Councillor Dawson says he is pleased that the Commissioner is so confident in her reassurances.

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“This will, no doubt, be confirmed when the government have looked at all the figures nationwide.”

He did have one concern which had come up over the years which was the tendency of some officers to wrongly-inform members of the public, when called to their homes, that there was “no criminal matter – it is purely ‘civil'”. This occurred particularly, but not exclusively, in landlord-tenant matters and disputes with traders where there were issues of theft, intimidation, harassment and and criminal damage involved.

“There are quite often situations where there are potentially both civil and criminal matters involved.” says Councillor Dawson.

“I am not sure whether there are just training issues or whether some police officers are understandably looking for a ‘way out’of a situation which does not require further input from themselves. In one case recently, this has led to accusations of police officer aiding and abetting a crime by allegedly standing by while it was being committed.”

The watchdog that oversees the publication of official data, UK Statistics Authority, said last week that there was evidence that crime figures recorded by the police in England and Wales may not be reliable.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, who is to report later this year on the issue, says he expects to find “a degree of fiddling, some of it owing to dishonesty” among the 43 police forces in England and Wales. He has, though, ruled out “institutional corruption” behind the inaccurate recording of crime by the police.

The police recorded crime figures, which date back to the 19th century, are one of the two major measures of crime in England and Wales. The second yardstick, the crime survey for England and Wales, which only dates back to 1981, is unaffected by the allegations and has consistently showed a fall in crime since 1995.

The gold-standard “national statistics” status has now been withdrawn from police recorded crime figures following repeated allegations of “a degree of fiddling”. The UK Statistics Authority said it had taken this decision as a result of “accumulating evidence” that the underlying data on crimes recorded by the police may be unreliable. The Statistics Authority said the removal of the approved designation of national police statistics would remain until the Office for National Statistics (ONS), working with the Home Office, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and others, could demonstrate that the quality of the underlying crime data was sufficient to meet the needs of the users of that data.

MPs have also recently heard allegations that fiddling techniques have included downgrading offences to less serious crimes or persuading victims not to make a complaint, while in some cases crimes were only being recorded if they were solved. Some other incidents were kept completely off the books if an offender could not be traced, MPs have been told.

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