By Richard Alleyne
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
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
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,
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
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."