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Crime Of The Century - A Chilling Look At Crime Statistics In The UK


(iii) The international context 27. There may also be a case for reporting crime trends in a more international context. International comparisons require great care – measures of ‘total’ recorded crime, for example, are not comparable due to differences in legislation and recording practice across national boundaries. Nevertheless, it may be possible to increase public and media confidence in some findings (for example whether crime in England and Wales is stable or falling) if it can be pointed out that similar trends have been observed elsewhere. This particularly applies to findings from regular victimisation surveys.


Using and quoting the statistics responsibly 28. We think that a public ‘protocol’ on the responsible use of crime statistics, as suggested in the Casey Review (paragraph 105) would be difficult to enforce and its interpretation would be problematic, particularly in relation to the dividing line between what is acceptable statistical usage in the cut and thrust of political debate and what constitutes an outright misuse of statistics. 29. We do, however, think that it would be helpful to have a free-standing guide that explains the strengths and limitations of different kinds of crime data (paragraph 144) – providing independent, authoritative advice as to when it is appropriate to use recorded crime, BCS or another source and explaining the kinds of judgement that need to be made when no single source is ideal (recommendation 4(ii)). This would help to avoid the misuse of statistics (whether deliberate or inadvertent) in public statements while not impeding genuine research. 30. A guide to the data sources, as described, might be further developed into guidelines on the responsible use of crime statistics within government, which others might also choose to follow (recommendation 4(iii)). Its scope could also be extended to cover criminal justice statistics, and its guidance to include advice on the availability of publications and downloadable data, since the statistics concerned are currently spread across a range of websites.


Local crime data 31. Several government and police websites now provide local crime figures, but they cover different categories of crime, for different time periods and for different geographies. The amount and quality of explanatory material is variable. 32. While supporting the public’s right to have ready access to local information, we do have some concerns about the practical impact. There is a risk, for example, that fluctuations from one month to the next will be misinterpreted, possibly misleading the public or affecting the deployment of police resource. The data also need to be contextualised, since the level of recorded crime can be a reflection of operational decisions. Mistaken or ill- informed use of the statistics could reduce the level of trust in local information. 33. We would encourage the identification and implementation of shared good practice (paragraphs 146, 176-180, 184 and recommendation 5(i))). In particular, the Home Office is working with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) to strengthen existing guidance and support to the police on the conduct of local surveys. We would like to see


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