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


Q4: The Terms of Reference for the review asks for consideration of the current definitions of crime. Do you have any comments?


The current definitions of crime would seem to be adequate for their purposes. The problem lies in the number of notifiable offences that exist. Perhaps if some multiple definitions could be combined this would reduce the statistical burden. It may complicate the legal definitions slightly, but this would be a small price to pay provided the definitions were not adjusted in such a way so as to compromise the ends of justice.


Q5: It has been said that the crime statistics provide a partial picture. What, if any, are the main gaps in Home Office crime statistics that you feel should be addressed as a priority


Transparency and honesty. Making no apologies for repeating the concerns here. The yawning gap that has existed for a number of years now, has been the non-addressed problem of gaming within the service. Whatever the extent and causes, until this is rooted out completely and the system made “Game Proof” (Bevan & Hood 2006), there will never be a more complete picture.


This review and action that may follow represents the perfect opportunity for reform and the Coalition should grasp it firmly.


The temptation to practice Gaming when producing and delivering performance management data including crime statistics on recorded crime and detections, could be removed by either making the targets less specific or by making the monitoring process more ambiguous and spontaneous. The HMIC thematic inspections are a step in the right direction, however we would maintain that this should be a more regular and unannounced practice with independent representation.


The ‘dark figure’ of crime as it is known – the mismatch between crime estimates produced by victimisation surveys and those recorded by the police – is a well-known concept in the most elementary criminology. Much has been written about the ‘reporting’ shortfall; why victims of crime do not report their experiences to the police. By comparison, the ‘recording’ shortfall is under-researched, and widely misunderstood. The shortfall is further exacerbated by “Cuffing” and other practices to under record or fail to record crime.


The ‘dark figure’ of crime is an argument that will not fade until the focus is shifted toward statistics that can be relied upon more consistently. There is a strong case for abandoning the British Crime Survey which, as well as being an expensive luxury in times of fiscal constraint, serves to highlight the gap between recorded and actual crime, yet offers no realistic and acceptable solution.


Why do we need the entirety of BCS? It tells us that crime levels are higher than those reported to the police, which is a fact that is widely known anyway. Whilst public opinion, experience and perceptions of crime are useful barometers of public concern and opinion


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