Thursday, 19 July 2007

Crime and the perception of crime

The UK Home Affairs select committee’s are concerned about how effective the police are. The acting chairman, David Winnick, said: "We know the police have had a major increase in funding over the past decade but it is much more difficult to tell what they have done with it." The committee said the number of officers actually rose by 11% in that time.

According to the British Crime Survey (BCS) (the credibility of which was called into question by the Smith Review of crime statistics), crime had fallen by a third from 1997 to 2006, whilst recorded violent crime had risen by 21%.

One has to question the official figures to some extent in any case. There is strong anecdotal evidence that the targets are actually driving police behaviour away from effective policing and towards producing results that look good on paper. Taking minor easy win offences, or in some cases non offences and turning them into multiple detections. It would also seem changes in the law and organisational practices are resulting in officers spending more instead of less time on paperwork.

Despite the official figures the public appear to be unconvinced.

It seems, according to the authoritative Prof Ken Pease and Prof Graham Farrell that the BCS underestimates figures by around 3 million offences per year by only counting crimes committed against repeat victims up to 5, so if for instance, you report your car has been vandalised 10 times in a year only half of them will count.

Nil desperandum, as they used to say in Rome, it seems ministers are now planning to launch a new strategy to ‘move public perception of crime’ into line with official falling figures…

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