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


further, for example in indicating the types of allegation that are least likely to be recorded as crimes – in particular highlighting the low likelihood of allegations involving offences against the person, such as violence, being recorded as crime.


This broad message is unlikely to be welcome news. The Home Office has, in issuing its new Counting Rules, dictated unequivocally that any notifiable offence that comes to police notice should be recorded (Home Office, 1998), and sought – through the new ‘one victim, one offence’ dictum – to bridge the traditional gap between police crime figures and the BCS estimates of recorded crime. The police service, through HMIC, has invested heavily in the auditing of crime recording procedures (Home Office, 1996). Indeed a number of the forces participating in this review have nailed their colours to the mast of promoting integrity in crime recording (so that their crime records more accurately reflect the number and range of crime allegations made to them).


Against this backdrop the natural reaction to the current findings would be to re-double the efforts directed at encouraging the police to record all allegations that constitute a crime. But there are a number of reasons why this immediate reaction should be perhaps tempered. First this objective is a rock on which many previous initiatives have floundered: principally, it seems, because of radically different views of the circumstances in which a crime allegation should be formally recorded as a crime. Secondly, there is a need to take stock of the impact of the changes already effected by the new Counting Rules. Above all, decisions on future policy should be underpinned by a balanced assessment of the function served by – in turn – police crime records and the BCS itself.


The BCS has one simple function – to measure the scale and nature of crime experienced by the general public. Police crime records, too, are certainly intended to meet this need, but these records principally serve an operational need. Dealing with crime represents one of the main duties of the police service. If this is their primary purpose and there is a corresponding expectation that the police should respond equally to all recorded crimes, then the prospect that recorded crime might need to almost double to accurately reflect all crime allegations made to the police is daunting.


The research suggests that one ‘umbrella’ explanation that accounts for the police decision to not record a crime allegation is the widespread application of ‘evidential’ standards.


Put another way, in many instances police officers will not be content to file a crime report without clear supporting evidence that the offence has been committed. Even if there is reasonable evidence that an offence has been committed, but the complainant refuses to press a charge (as in so many cases of non-stranger violence), then there is a general reluctance to make any crime record at all. There is some logic in adopting this position. If the primary function of the crime record is to account for the investigation carried out, then when there is no purpose in pursuing it – so, too, there is little purpose in creating the record.


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