Data queried after crime reaches lowest levelBy James Chapple
February 05, 2013
ALL forms of crime, with the exception of drug offences, have fallen across Hampshire, Surrey and Thames Valley, sparking concerns over the validity of newly published figures for 2012.
The data, issued recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), suggests crime throughout England and Wales has dropped by 8% to 3.8 million offences, its lowest level for more than three decades.
However, John Flatley, head of crime statistics at the ONS, said data from the police may have ‘overstated’ the fall in crime due to the way incidents are recorded, adding statistical pressures on police to cut crime may also have played a part.
In Hampshire and Surrey, drug offences were up 7% to 6,669 and 14% to 3,799 between September 2011 and September 2012 compared with the same period over 2010/11, while Thames Valley saw a negligible decrease amounting to just eight offences.
Despite the increase in drugs offences, higher than the average for the south east region which saw a 1% rise, figures for the News & Mail area show a sweeping reduction in other forms of crime.
In total, crime is down 12% in Hampshire to 117,259 offences, 13% in Surrey to 56,164 offences and 12% in Thames Valley to 140,094 offences, ahead of an overall 9% reduction in the south east to 504,439 offences.
Violent offences, resulting in an injury to the victim, are down 38% in Surrey to 2,701 incidents, 15% in Hampshire to 11,980 and 10% in Thames Valley to 8,720.
Meanwhile, robbery fell 27% in Hampshire to 772 incidents, 24% in Surrey to 301 and 18% in Thames Valley to 1,572 occurrences.
It is the lesser offences where a greater discrepancy between police-recorded offences and ONS crime statistics appear.
Analysis of the data by the ONS shows police recorded 400,000 fewer crimes over the past five years than reported in an ONS crime survey of more than 40,000 households across England and Wales.
Mr Flatley said officers had to make a ‘judgment call’ as to whether incidents attended by officers were actually a crime by law or a low-level incident that would not be recorded in the crime figures.
“It is possible in an era of targets to cut crime and putting pressure on officers to see a reduction in crime that their judgment will sway more to including that in the lower level category,” he added.
Although the statistics to the end of September 2012 pre-date the appointment of England and Wales’s 41 Police and Crime Commissioners, which have taken on responsibility from Police Authorities, Hampshire’s first PCC Simon Hayes was quick to praise the ‘dedication’ of his constabulary.
“These figures provide a strong indication of the direction of travel for the force,” he said. “I will be sitting down with the new chief constable to look closely at these figures and satisfy myself that Hampshire Constabulary can continue to sustain this level of performance.”
Chief Constable Alex Marshall added Hampshire’s increase in drug crime, like Surrey, was down to ‘proactive initiatives’ to stamp out the root cause of drug crime.