Crime statistics ‘gaming’ by police attacked

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Police under-recording of crimes will become more widespread as the Government has focused too heavily on reducing crime levels at the expense of other targets, a former chief inspector claims today.

Rodger Patrick, former West Midlands chief inspector, said police “gaming” of crime statistics is so common that it must be “organisational in nature”.

He said it is likely to become more prevalent as the coalition dismantled a “plethora” of centrally-set targets which were not solely focused on crime levels.

In a report for think-tank Civitas, Dr Patrick said the data now serves little purpose in measuring crime levels and called for a judge-led inquiry to uncover why the “perverse” behaviour was not challenged sooner.

His warning follows a report last month by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) which found “indefensible” under-recording of crime in England and Wales’s 43 police forces, with an estimated 800,000 crimes not being recorded properly each year - around 19 per cent of the total.

The report of a sample of reports of crime found 33 per cent were unrecorded in West Yorkshire, 27 per cent in the Humberside force area, 24 per cent in South Yorkshire and 16 per cent in North Yorkshire.

Dr Patrick said the report raised questions about the governance of the police.

He said: “The widespread occurrence and repeated nature of incidents involving the same phenomenon suggests that this form of police deviance is organisational in nature.

“This in turn raises questions about the standard of police leadership and those entrusted with the governance, oversight and scrutiny of the service.”

He went on to say police data is “manipulated to such an extent that it serves little purpose in measuring crime levels of the performance of the police service”.

“Whilst under-recording crime is the most common form of police ‘gaming’ behaviour it is not the only one,” he said.

“However, it is likely to become the most prevalent, as the coalition Government elected in 2010 dismantled the plethora of centrally-set targets and placed the focus on reducing crime.”

Dr Patrick also said the HMIC audit failed to take into account two police “tactics” in under-recording crime.

He said the majority of under-recording is likely to be a result of police forces rebuffing victims by informing them they must attend a police station with documentation and proof that they have suffered a crime.

Dr Patrick said control room staff were also wrongly-categorising initial reports of crime as suspicious incidents or domestic disputes.

He criticised the inspectorate for failing to question whether there was managerial orchestration of statistical manipulation.

“The easiest way for forces engaged in gaming in the form of cuffing to avoid detection is to categorise reported crimes as non-crime incidents,” he said.

“These could be classified as suspicious incidents or domestic disputes.

“The underlying assumption being made by HMIC appears to be that the behaviour being investigated is not organisational in nature and/or managerially orchestrated.

“Establishing if this was the case should have been an object of the exercise.”