PCC responds to HMIC crime recording report
The HMIC interim report into crime recording is an important document. The accurate recording of crime is critical to understanding what is going on in our communities. Without accurate crime data, how can we hope to deploy our police officers, PCSOs and police staff in an intelligent and optimal fashion, keeping people safe and secure across our county?
As Police and Crime Commissioner I have given this issue high priority since my election. In November 2013, I was one of three PCCs to give evidence to parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee and I stated unequivocally:
‘It is crucial that crime is recorded correctly and ethically by our police forces. This is a matter of police integrity, of treating victims with respect and of ensuring that officers have the most accurate possible information as they work both to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice.’
Across the 13 forces inspected in the interim report, the implication drawn by HMIC is that 20 per cent of crimes may be going unrecorded across England and Wales. I agree with HMIC that this is a matter of serious concern.
The good news in Essex is that of a representative 73 incidents examined by HMIC, only 5, under 7 per cent, were incorrectly recorded as ‘no crimes’ in our county.
Of 120 crimes examined by HMIC that should have been recorded as crimes, 110, around 92 per cent, were correctly recorded as crimes.
In short, HMIC’s inspection has found that crime is largely recorded accurately and ethically in Essex. The HMIC interim report provides independent validation of the robust processes that exist in Essex Police to ensure that crimes are correctly recorded, enabling informed and intelligent decisions to be made around the deployment of our police officers, PCSOs and police staff.
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh has shown clear and strong leadership on the importance of accurate crime recording, developing and building on the work of his predecessor, Jim Barker-McCardle. I am pleased that the people of Essex can have confidence that when they report crime, then the information they provide will be treated professionally and properly by their police force. And I would stress again, everyone must report crime to police.
However, I am not complacent. At the heart of my role as PCC is the task of holding the Chief Constable to account. On behalf of the people of Essex, I will continue to insist that crime is recorded accurately and ethically in our county.
I am also convinced that moving away from a slavish reliance on strict performance targets, of a lazy culture of ‘chasing the figures’, is important in helping to ensure crime is recorded ethically. On becoming Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2012, I set Essex Police a clear and simple aspiration: to reduce all crime to ensure there are fewer victims of crime. I am pleased that crime is continuing to fall in Essex. I frequently hear from experienced police officers that they now feel liberated to work to reduce harm in our communities rather than chasing targets.
My commitment is that crime will be recorded accurately and professionally in our county. The people of Essex should have confidence in the crime figures that we publish on a regular basis on my website and which are discussed in detail at our public meetings. Those crime figures may sometimes be challenging, but they must continue to be a factually accurate account of the level and type of crime in our communities and neighbourhoods.
I believe the scrutiny that I have applied to crime recording in our county combined with the leadership of Chief Constable Kavanagh, and the independent inspection by HMIC, means that the people of Essex can have a high level of confidence that the crime figures paint a broadly accurate picture.
I am grateful to HMIC for their interim report, but conscious that this is an ongoing process. I will continue to work with Essex Police, day by day, to ensure that our county’s crime figures remain reliable and accurate. We must embed a culture based not on chasing figures but on the core tasks of policing: protecting people from harm, bringing criminals to justice, and keeping our communities safe.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex