Crime down in Yorkshire - but doubts remain over police figures

Police-recorded crime statistics are out today
Police-recorded crime statistics are out today
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THE number of crimes recorded in Yorkshire has dropped by 3.5 per cent in the last year, according to the region’s police forces.

Police-recorded crime figures were published today for forces across the country only days after being stripped of an official “gold standard” mark by the statistics watchdog amid mounting concern they were being “fiddled”.

Offences recorded by the four Yorkshire and the Humber forces dropped to 356,284 in the year to September 2013 compared with 369,207 in the same period for 2012. The fall of 3.5 per cent compares with a three per cent decrease for the country as a whole.

These are the first batch of statistics to be published since the UK Statistics Authority removed the National Statistics designation from all crime data recorded by the police.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, released at the same time by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and based on interviews with crime victims, crime against households and adults in England and Wales fell 10 per cent in the year to September.

There were about eight million incidents of crime against households and adults in the period, according to the survey, the lowest level since it began 32 years ago.

The reduction of crime measured by the CSEW - victims’ experience of crime, independently of whether it has been reported to, or recorded by, police - was driven by “statistically significant” falls in both household crime, theft from the person, and violent crime, the ONS said.

Within the under-fire police-recorded crime figures, there were decreases across most of the main categories but a four cent rise in shoplifting and seven per cent increase in theft from the person.

Sexual offences recorded by the police rose by 17 per cent, while West Yorkshire Police saw the highest increase in reports of these offences of all forces in the country. The number of offences rose from 1,788 to 2,956, an increase of 65 per cent.

West Yorkshire chief constable Mark Gilmore said the rise was driven by “high profile, historic sexual offence cases” such as that of shamed Leeds DJ Jimmy Savile which have led to more victims coming forward, improvements in crime recording and the success of the force’s recent Know The Signs campaign.

The force saw a drop of 4.3 per cent in overall crime, from 171,144 offences to 163,843, though bicycle theft and shoplifting offences rose.

Mr Gilmore said: “I am pleased that overall crime continues to fall significantly throughout West Yorkshire, with greater reductions than the national average.

“Colleagues, partners and communities have worked hard together to achieve these results, with notable success in key areas.

“Significantly, the figures reveal a large drop in house burglary equating to 1,727 fewer victims and also in robbery, with 298 fewer victims.”

In South Yorkshire police recorded crime fell by 3.3 per cent, from 96,326 offences to 93,209, with the biggest reductions recorded in possession of weapons, criminal damage and arson and drug offences.

But the force also saw a number of alarming rises such as a 27 per cent increase in robberies, which is higher than any other force in the country.

A 31 per cent rise in the number of thefts from the person was the second highest in the country behind Cheshire, though theft as a whole in South Yorkshire was down by two per cent.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt said: “It’s positive that overall crime continues to fall in South Yorkshire but that’s no comfort to those who have been the victim of a criminal act.

“South Yorkshire Police is committed to reducing the vulnerability of all victims but particularly those most at risk. Whether violence is in the home or in a public place, the force is dedicated to working with our partners to identify the early indications of vulnerability so that victims are protected and offenders punished.”

The biggest drop in total recorded crime in the region, including fraud offences, was North Yorkshire, who registered six per cent less crime, while Humberside Police recorded a one per cent drop.

Across the region, violence with injury offences dropped by three per cent, though violence without injury offences during the same period were up by 11 per cent.

Humberside Police force recorded a 21 per cent rise in violence without injury offences, though the number of violence with injury offences fell by four per cent at the same time.

The force saw reductions in vehicle offences, theft from the person and criminal damage and arson, though rates of recorded shoplifting and burglary went up.

Deputy Chief Constable David Griffin said: “ It is good news that overall crime has fallen slightly reflecting the continued effort of Humberside Police and our partners to reduce crime.

“We are conscious that some categories of crime have shown increases, notably shoplifting and violence without injury.

“We have been working hard with retailers to bring a fresh approach to tackling shoplifting by deterring known shoplifters from stealing before they enter stores, which is producing good results.

“In relation to violent crime without injury, it seems in common with other forces the good summer resulted in some of the increase, as alcohol related violence tends to increase in hot weather.”

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: “England and Wales are safer than they have been for decades with crime now at its lowest level since the survey began in 1981.

“The Government has made clear that recorded crime statistics must be as robust as possible and we have a strong record on reinforcing their independence and accountability.

“We asked HMIC in June to carry out an audit of the quality of crime recording in every police force. And earlier this month, the Home Secretary wrote to chief constables emphasising that the police must ensure that crimes are recorded accurately and honestly.”

A fall in police-recorded crime was seen across most force areas, with the exception of Cumbria, Gwent, Humberside and Merseyside which showed no change, and Northumbria, City of London, and British Transport Police, which showed a 1% increase.

Kent showed an eight per cent increase but this is thought to be largely due to a change in recording practices rather than a real increase in crime.

However, questions remain over the reliability of police-recorded figures after the UKSA decision to strip them of an official seal of approval last week.

The damning move came amid serious concerns over the integrity of crime figures, which were sparked by claims made by serving Metropolitan Police officer Pc James Patrick last month.

Mr Patrick told MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) that massaging crime figures to hit performance targets had become “an engrained part of policing culture”.

Responsibility for the production and publication of crime statistics for England and Wales was transferred from the Home Office to the ONS in April 2012.

But the Home Office remains operationally responsible for the collection and validation of recorded crime data from police forces in England and Wales before they are passed to the ONS for publication.

Police forces are responsible for generating police-recorded crime data, and each force has a crime registrar responsible for overseeing compliance with standards for recording crimes.

HMIC assessments of data-recording practices and high-profile concerns raised before MPs are among accumulating evidence that suggests the underlying data on crimes recorded by the police “may not be reliable”, the UKSA said.

In January last year, the ONS raised its own concerns that police records had appeared to “overstate the true rate at which crime has been falling” by failing to take into account hundreds of thousands of offences.

Mark Botham of the North Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in England’s largest county, said: “We have raised consistently for a number of years our concerns about the validity of crime statistics.

“We have pointed out the fallacy of relying on the crime statistics for years, we have been accused of being luddites in trying to say that crime will rise as a result of cutting police numbers.

“We have been told ‘we are cutting police numbers and crime continues to fall’. That is from local and national politicians, now what is their answer?”

National policing lead on crime statistics, Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, said the fall in crime in the CSEW was “encouraging”.

He added: “Accurate crime statistics are not only essential in holding police accountable for the work they do in the ongoing fight against crime, but also vital in ensuring that police officers and staff are deployed to the right place at the right time.

“It is disappointing that the UK Statistics Authority has decided to remove the National Statistics designation from police recorded crime statistics as this has come at a time when the service is working to make crime statistics more transparent, more accountable and assure the public of the figures’ integrity.

“However, the police service, supported by HMIC, the Home Office, the Office of National Statistics, the College of Policing and the Crime Statistics Advisory Committee will continue to work hard in order to achieve accuracy and consistency in recorded crime in order to see the National Statistics designation restored.”