As crime falls again in Norfolk police insist our figures can be trusted

Police officers on the beat. Photo: Ian Burt. Police officers on the beat. Photo: Ian Burt.

Friday, January 24, 2014
7:30 AM

Quarterly statistics released by the Home Office, which show that crime in Norfolk was down 3.6pc in 2013, maintain, on paper at least, the 
county’s status as one of the safest places in the country last year, with 44 crimes per 1,000 population compared to the national average of 66.

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The figures for the year between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013 show there were 1,410 fewer recorded crimes than in the previous 12 months, with a reduction from 39,242 to 37,832.

Reductions were shown across the main crime categories including robbery (-10.6pc), burglary (-3.5pc) and criminal damage/arson (-8.5pc) and theft offences (-3.5pc).

But during this period, the force recorded increases in both violent crime (+2.3pc to 8,161 offences) and sexual offences (+3.4pc to 843 offences).

In the case of violent crime, the increase is attributed to an increase in non-injury offences with the most serious offences – violence with injury – showing a 2.3pc decrease (-89 offences) during this period.

However, with police crime figures having been stripped of the official quality assurance mark by the
statistics watchdog after claims that they are massaged, a question mark has been raised as to the reliability of figures recorded by the 43 forces in England and Wales about offending in their area.

MPs on the Public Administration Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into crime figures, have recently heard allegations that crime figures have been manipulated to meet targets.

PC James Patrick, of the Metropolitan Police, told the committee last month that massaging crime figures to hit performance targets had become an “ingrained part of policing culture” and claimed that serious offences, including rape and child sex abuse, were recorded as crime-related incidents or no crimes.

The UK Statistics Authority, the watchdog which oversees the publication of official data, said last week it could no longer approve crime figures based on information recorded by the police in England and Wales.

Sir Andrew Dilnot, the head of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), has told MPs that the problems look so bad that the effort to fix police failings will probably lead to a rise in the number of recorded crimes.

But a spokesman for Norfolk police yesterday claimed the force’s figures could be trusted.

He said: “Norfolk Constabulary has in place a comprehensive audit facility with regular and robust
scrutiny of our crime data.

“HMIC are currently in the process of running inspections of crime data integrity across the country and Norfolk is due for inspection in March.”

Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, insisted the public, in Norfolk at least, could have total confidence in the accuracy of the latest figures.

He said: “I’m really pleased with how we’re going. We make sure we record the figures as accurately as we possibly can and it’s verified by an independent body which comes and has a look at us to make sure we’re doing things right. I think where I would be also pleased is where reports of crime is going up where people feel more confident about reporting things – Jimmy Savile-type crimes and domestic violence – which is good news.”

Henry Bellingham, North West Norfolk MP, who was once a member of the shadow justice team, said police figures for Norfolk were “very encouraging” and urged those questioning the validity of recorded police figures to think again.

Statistics from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which estimates crime levels based on how many people say they have been a victim of crime, have also been published at the same time and reveal that overall crime fell by 10pc in England and Wales in the year to September 2013.

Mr Bellingham said: “The national crime survey is showing greater decreases than the police’s own figures, so I think the critics of the police’s figures possibly should review that.”

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP, said there would always be questions as to whether there was complete accuracy about “any figures from any organisation” but did not think there was any reason to think the current figures were not part of the continuing trend of good performance by the force.

He said: “This trend of reduction is incredibly good news. We must never ever be complacent but the police in Norfolk do really important work and we’re lucky enough to live in one of the safest counties in the country.”

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