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CRIME STATISTICS

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CRIME STATISTICS

Post by PeterMac on 27.04.14 12:49

Much has been written and argued about the way in which the Police record crime statistics.  Some see them as sacred, others as nothing more than a tool or a vague indication of something or other, but several become agitated when they find that the figures are not as they expected them to be.

The subject is not an easy one.

Commentators outside the police seem to assume that each reported crime should get a crime number, which sounds simple, but in fact is not as simple as it looks.
For example, at what point do you allocate a crime number.
When a person reports a crime, or when a police officer has determined that a crime has in fact been committed.

As a young PC I frequently saw people from the estate at the counter of the police station, when they would say “Me meters 'ave bin robbed”. Should I give this a crime number for Robbery, Burglary, or Theft.
OR, should I go round to the house with the complainant, and after looking at the scene and asking two pertinent questions record it as Theft from Meter by Occupant.

Take another classic.
Youth takes a key and scratches the paintwork of a car causing £100 of damage
One crime ?   I think we can agree on that

He scratches the paintwork of 5 cars along a road
5 crimes, or one incident involving 5 victims ?

He scratches the paintwork of 5 cars - but these are on a sales forecourt so all belong to one person.
5 crimes, or one crime involving 5 cars and one victim ?

And it gets more complicated.
3 youths get involved in a fight with 3 other youths outside a pub at closing time. Each one in one group strikes each of the ones in the other group, causing some injury.
Is this 18 cases of Assault occasioning Actual Bodily harm (3 x 3 x 2) ?
(And with two groups of 4 this becomes 32.)
Or one incident of Affray, one fight.

In Arnold some years ago it was discovered that a dentist was continuing to practise, despite having been struck off the register.
200 working days in a year, 10 patients each day.
There were therefore, on ONE subdivision 2,000 cases of GBH with intent, 2,000 cases of Administering noxious substance with intent, 2,000 cases of obtaining money by deception (Fraud)
Crime prevention and reduction targets out of the window, not only for the Divisional Commander, but also for the Chief Constable.
There isn’t a box on the Home Office Crime Stats returns form for explanations.
And for that reason the police HAVE to interpret what they have

Why does any of this matter ?
Many years ago the size of a Police Force, its ‘establishment’ was set by the Home Office, using a complicated formula (TOPS) which took into account the population, the area covered, urban/rural split, social deprivation, mileage of roads, length of Motorway,  and a host of other things including Crime numbers.

And each constable on the Establishment meant the equivalent monetary grant.  

The Police Committee had no control over any of these, except, through the Chief Constable, the Crime figures. The Establishment figure was not the same as the number of actual officers, so the Police Committee could have fewer officers, pay a bit of overtime or ‘undermanning allowance’ and use the rest of the money on other things, buildings, better cars or whatever.

So for generations it was in the interests of the Police and the Committee to have high crime rates, and then, to demonstrate efficiency, to have high detection rates.
As a young DC in a slum clearance area, where men would walk into the derelict houses to steal the lead piping - legally the property of the demolition company - it was not unusual for one to be charged with two counts of Burglary Dwelling, and have 500 - yes FIVE HUNDRED offences - Taken into Consideration (TIC) by the court.  The fine of £25 was exactly the same, but we now had a significant rise in the detection rate.
And everyone was happy.

Remember -  this whole thing was driven by the Home Office.
There is a Home Office Crime Stats Manual, which attempts to sort all this out.
It is more than 3.5 inches thick. (10cm). But as anyone wbo has looked at it will tell you, outside the exact examples it gives, it still requires interpretation.
Over recent years the drive has been towards Crime reduction, so every Divisional Commander is now under a totally different set of pressures.

So what is the answer ?
The answer to the first situation involving the cars, used to be easy.
If it was ‘undetected’ it got one number, and all five victims were recorded on page 2 of the Crime report.  There was no question of “failing to record”.
If it was ‘detected’ it got 5 crime numbers.  (Or acquired the other 4 some months later when they would not be noticed by the Stats department.)   Simple.

And here is a provocative question.
How is Hillsborough recorded ?
96 Manslaughters ?
Wrong.
It is still “officially” an Accident, which is what the entire 25 year campaign has been about.
And if that decision is overturned, will it be One crime of Manslaughter with 96 victims, or 96 cases. And what about injured survivors ?

Which then raises the question of why any of that statistical recording of a tragedy actually matters, and if so, to whom. What difference will it make to anyone ?

And from there we have to ask what difference any Government Statistics make !

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Re: CRIME STATISTICS

Post by diatribe on 27.04.14 13:08

@PeterMac wrote:
It is still “officially” an Accident, which is what the entire 25 year campaign has been about.
And if that decision is overturned, will it be One crime of Manslaughter with 96 victims, or 96 cases. And what about injured survivors ?

If the Hillsborough decision is overturned, could it be classified as 'Corporate Manslaughter?

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Re: CRIME STATISTICS

Post by PeterMac on 27.04.14 14:49

@diatribe wrote:
@PeterMac wrote:
It is still “officially” an Accident, which is what the entire 25 year campaign has been about.
And if that decision is overturned, will it be One crime of Manslaughter with 96 victims, or 96 cases. And what about injured survivors ?

If the Hillsborough decision is overturned, could it be classified as 'Corporate Manslaughter?
I think it may well be, as there is clearly not one single defined act which caused the deaths.
even the decision to open the gate merely allowed the next phases in the tragedy to unfold,
but the point still stands,  
What is the purpose of giving it a Crime Number.  And of trying to Count it.

And whilst we are on the subject, think of Theft from Shop - Shoplifting.
It is only ever a "Detected " crime.
The supermarket chains put what they call 'shrinkage' into their annual accounts but do not report "Theft of half a Million pounds worth of Goods" to the local police station at the end of the financial year.

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