A chief constable has told the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister that any manipulation of crime figures is an “inadvertent” consequence of a fixation on numerical targets.
Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon put his views to Damian Green after a speech at the Association of Chief Police Officers’ conference in Northampton, where the MP said that the statistics appeared to show that crime had fallen dramatically.
But CC Creedon said he had spoken with Federation representatives from numerous forces – and they were telling him that manipulation of crime statistics, such as by recording no crime or filling in a more minor transgression, was still going on.
Speaking during the question and answer session at the opening session of the conference, the chief said he believed the alleged behaviour was likely “an unintended consequence” of a culture of measuring performance through numerical indicators.
CC Creedon said: “We are putting pressure on officers to do all they can to encourage crime reduction.
“They will do whatever they can to make sure crime is not going up.
“It doesn’t help telling officers all the time to reduce crime, saying ‘that’s your job, nothing more, nothing less.’”
Mr Green replied that officers who knowingly recorded crime wrongly to influence statistics were “crossing a very thick red line”. He added he would be “surprised and disappointed” if claims that this behaviour was widespread were true.
The MP said: “I’m a politician. It’s my job is to win elections. I don’t go around fiddling votes. If police officers go about cutting crime by fiddling the figures then clearly that’s wrong behaviour.
“I would be surprised and disappointed if pressure from senior officers produced that reaction.”
Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, told Mr Green that some crime recording issues were due to the complexity of some crimes, adding officers could use “a huge field of interpretation” to decide how to record offences.
Jeff Farrar, Chief Constable of Gwent Police and national lead on crime recording, revealed that he was due to give evidence to MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee on the integrity of crime recording on December 11.
He said he hoped to provide “a broader context” to evidence the committee heard from a group of former and serving officers on November 19, which suggested the manipulation of statistics was widespread.
He told this website there were “sporadic” cases of misrecording crime but said the Office of National Statistics held British crime recording to be “the best in the world”.
During his speech, Mr Green said: “It is of course crucial that crimes are recorded properly so that victims get the service they need.
“This is why we continue to work with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to ensure the quality of police crime recording is high. I know the inspectorate is keeping a close eye on this issue, by undertaking a robust inspection this year, with a national thematic report to be published next autumn.”
In a later interview with PoliceOracle.com, CC Creedon said there had been an atmosphere of central targets for statistical performance for the last 15 years.
The chief said many crimes, such as criminal damage, were hugely underreported by victims and crime would soar if they were all recorded in police systems.
CC Creedon added: “The government talks about crime rates. The Home Office says crime is going down but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the risk to the public.”
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that any manipulation of crime figures “can never be right”.