The Truth

Pcs told to downgrade crimes to help meet targets .........

added 6/5/08

By Richard Alleyne
The Telegraph

Police officers are being told to play down offences such as burglary and car theft in order to reduce crime figures, it was claimed yesterday.

Force chiefs have sent out a memo warning police constables to query carefully whether a crime has been committed, especially in the case of damage to property.

This could mean that a burglary or the smashing of a car window where nothing was stolen could be reduced to an offence of criminal damage or vandalism lesser crimes.

The change in policy, sent to police in Norwich but thought to be being adopted across the country, has angered rank-and-file officers who accused their superiors of fiddling the figures.

One policeman in the city claimed that in divisional management meetings, senior officers routinely queried whether crimes should be downgraded even asking if some burglaries should be re-classified as criminal damage.

The whistleblower said: "This is just one example of what's going on to try to screen out crimes. What's worse is that if they are not going to record it, it's not going to show the true picture of what's going on in an area."

The leaked memo suggests that if a car window is smashed but no one is seen breaking it or actually stealing anything, then it should not be recorded as a crime. The same principle could also be adopted for break-ins, it suggests.

The memo says this system could be used to help reach crime reduction targets.

"We appear to be making things difficult for ourselves by 'criming' things that aren't actually crimes," it adds.

Referring to the example of the broken car window, the memo says: "If there is no evidence of someone intending to destroy or be reckless then there is no crime."

The memo suggests officers often record crimes out of "habit" so people can claim on their insurance.

"Where you are dealing with an incident where a crime has been alleged please ask yourself if there is evidence of a crime or if it's more appropriate to deal with it in a different way," it adds.

"As you are well aware it is much easier not to put a crime on than to get it off the system once it is there. So we need to get this right from the start."

The police source, who did not want to be named, said senior officers often used daily briefing sessions to try to downgrade crimes and put pressure on Pcs not to record crime.

"This is just a blatant attempt to cut crime by fiddling the stats. It's quite outrageous really," he said.

Anne Campbell, the head of communications for Norfolk police, insisted the move was not an attempt to massage the figures but a local initiative.

She said: "It's not a change, it's just a reflection of the new delivery unit's decision to really get policing much more locally focused."

From The Telegraph