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


Every Home Secretary since has also accepted that a major purpose of Home Office policy is to reduce crime and for the present government this has meant setting performance targets for crime reduction.


As a result, crime statistics have become a key metric for judging the performance of the Home Office and therefore central to debates between government and opposition. This has meant that crime statistics have been subject to a quite new degree of scrutiny and their release and handling have become politically much more sensitive.


The trend in crime increased at a particularly steep rate between the 1970s and mid 1990s, but then began a long and steep decline.


Labour governments since 1997 pinned their credibility to their performance targets and the crime statistics appeared to point to success in crime reduction. However, it was understandable that the early indications of falling crime would be greeted with some scepticism after such a long period of rising crime. Moreover, by the time the evidence became clear that the falls in crime were not simply short-term variations in the trend, the media climate had shifted from the honeymoon period that followed Labour’s first election.


However, at just this point the effects of introducing the new National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) meant that police recorded crime was not showing the same trend as the BCS. While historically the BCS and the police recorded crime series had mainly shown similar trends, they showed sharply divergent trends from 2002 until around 2004. The BCS showed the fall in crime continuing, whereas police recorded crime showed crime going up again as reflected in the diagram below.


Trends in police recorded and BCS crime, 1981 to 2005/06


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