Government watchdogs have pointed to endemic under-recording in the service as it lays bare the findings of its most extensive inspection and analysis of police-recorded crime data to date.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) says that, based on audits of 8,000 reports of crime to the police in England and Wales between November 2012 and October last year, almost one in five incidents which should have been classed as a crime were not.
While some forces in Yorkshire and the Humber performed better than others, all were guilty of under-reporting. A sample of calls to West Yorkshire taken from the one-year audit period found that only 150 of the 221 crimes which should have been recorded were given the appropriate treatment, leaving 33 per cent, unaccounted for - well above the national average of 19 per cent.
In Humberside, just under 27 per cent - or 35 of a possible 129 crimes - were not reported as such, while North Yorkshire Police failed in 11 cases of the 68 incidents audited.
South Yorkshire Police scored slightly higher, recording 76 per cent of the incidents which HMIC say should have classed as crime.
“Failure properly to record crime is indefensible,” said Tom Winsor, chief inspector for HMIC.
“This is not about numbers and dry statistics; it’s about victims and the protection of the public.”
Inspectors also found that police were less likely to record violent and sexual offences than other types. They have concluded that a quarter of sexual offences and a third of violent crime reported to the police each year are not being recorded as crime.
This news is bound to sit uncomfortably with the public, particularly in Yorkshire, in the wake of Rotherham’s child sexual exploitation scandal. The Jay report, released in the summer, criticised South Yorkshire Police for dismissing some of the victims who came forward with complaints of abuse.
Mr Winsor said: “The position in the case of rape and other sexual offences is a matter of especially serious concern. The inspection found 37 cases of rape which were not recorded as crimes. The national rate of under-recording of sexual offences, including rapes, as crimes was 26 per cent, and the national rate of incorrect decisions to no-crime rapes was 20 per cent.
“These are wholly unacceptable failings.
“Victims need and are entitled to support and assistance. They – and their communities – are entitled to justice.
“Failures in crime-recording can also increase the risks to victims and the community of the denial of justice. The police therefore need to take this subject very seriously.
In the Crime Data Integrity report, the inspectorate stressed that evidence has been gathered to present a national picture and that many individual forces had taken steps to improve since the audit period.
But this has not prevented calls for swift action from Home Secretary Theresa May.
Katy Bourne, chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ standards group, said: “Inaccurate recording of crime is letting down victims making inefficient use of scarce police resources, and in some cases leading to serious crimes not being reported at all.
“Getting crime data integrity right - first time - is essential to develop trust in the system, to provide a professional and sympathetic service to victims.”