The importance of accurate crime figures
I welcome the report of the Public Administration Select Committee into police recorded crime statistics.
After giving evidence to the Committee’s hearing of November 19, 2013, I published an article stressing the importance of recording crime correctly, and my judgement remains the same. It is clear that a rigid performance target culture can have perverse and unintended consequences.
The Committee’s report states:
“Some PCCs consider the perverse incentives created by targets to be so serious that they have dropped all targets. We applaud them. The attitudes and behaviour which lead to the misrecording of crime have become ingrained, including within senior leadership. This leads to the subordination of data integrity to target-chasing. This can present officers with a conflict between achievement of targets and core policing values.”
I am clear that it is essential that crime is recorded accurately and ethically. 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.
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.
However, there are some crime types that are almost certainly under-reported, such as domestic abuse, serious sexual offences and hate crime. It is important that victims have the confidence to report such crimes. It would be counter-productive for me, as PCC, to give Essex Police a target of, for instance, reducing the number of hate crimes or serious sexual offences, and I will not do so. I believe the responsible approach is to be prepared to accept a short-term increase in the recording of crimes which are likely to have been under-reported historically, with the long term aspiration of reducing harm and supporting victims.
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh has shown clear and strong leadership on the importance of accurate crime recording. My own inquiries have assured me that there are robust processes in Essex to deliver broadly accurate and ethical recording of crime. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary recently inspected crime recording in Essex, and I look forward to receiving their full report shortly.
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.
If we truly know what is going on, then Essex Police, partner and voluntary agencies and all of us, as residents, can work together effectively to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex