Kent Police is outstanding again at recording crime – and this is why it matters

Kent Police is outstanding again at recording crime – and this is why it matters

Let’s start with the acknowledgement of the good news – Kent Police have been deemed “outstanding” by the independent inspectors of Policing for the accuracy of its crime recording practices. It means that 96.6% of the time, Kent Police correctly ensured that an incident went on the books or not, based on the rules set out by the Home Office.

In June 2017, a report was published by HMICFRS that shows that Kent’s data was only 83% accurate, meaning that thousands of offences were not properly recorded. Victims still received a service from the Police, but perhaps only one crime was recorded when five should have been. For example, a fight in the street involving four people could under the Home Office’s rules be counted as five crimes.

The data that they looked at was from June 2016 to December 2016 and so much needed to be done to rectify the problems.

Training and audit needed to improve following the judgement of “inadequate”. Neither the Chief Constable or I were happy with this outcome, and fairly so. Neither were Officers and Staff, in fairness to them.

It is right on these occasions to ask questions as to how it occurred and what was being done to change this – which we both did. He quickly implemented an action plan which saw confidence in the internal audit processes improve within months.

The turn around that Kent Police Officers and Staff have delivered is phenomenal, and are now the best in the whole country at crime recording, with HMICFRS pointing to Kent as an example of how change can be implemented. They deserve congratulations and our thanks for this as well as the extra effort they went to to support victims and witnesses.

The accuracy of crime data is much more significant though than the inspection results of one Force. Some will pick and choose one of the two measures of crime to make their argument about public safety: the recognised official statistics published by the ONS in the Crime Survey for England and Wales or the crimes recorded by Police.

We should never be complacent about crime and antisocial behaviour levels, as victims of crime and residents more generally will still look to Police Forces and PCCs irrespective of what statistics say to ask what they’re doing to keep them safe, especially as we see continuing reports of murder and serious violence in our capital city.

Both measures have their flaws as I have consistently pointed out. Some offences are not under reported. Some have higher confidence levels than others. But with police recorded crime, it can be especially volatile, as:

• The accuracy of the Force’s crime data can have a massive impact – in this case in Kent, 25,400 extra Offences by going from 83% to 96.6%.

• Greater victim confidence will lead to an increase in the number of times they will report a crime. For example, domestic abuse now accounts for 1 in 6 crimes in Kent, and up to 40% of some violent crime depending on where you are in the county. Lots of effort has gone into this in recent years.

• New offences are being created and these are underreported. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust estimated that the Police were recording only 1% of all stalking and harassment cases. The number Kent recorded went up last year went up by 105%. Modern day slavery reports are on the rise too as more victims come forward.

So in the last year, there have been some pretty alarming figures published about rises in recorded crime in Kent. And there have been some slightly misleading stories as a result. The suggestion that Kent was the sixth most dangerous place in the country I believe is totally wrong – especially as it placed London as tenth. Kent’s crime data accuracy was much better than the Met’s.

We won’t have genuinely comparable year to year data for a little but yet. And all of these things above will have played a factor – but we do also have to be honest and say that in some areas, there has been an increase in crime too.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales is the only official statistic for measuring crime, and it says that it is down substantially in recent years and plateauing recently, with some increases in important areas. But as a measure it is flawed as well as some things aren’t measured.

That’s why I’ve set up the Violence Reduction Challenge – to work with Kent Police and other agencies to tackle the root causes of crime and bring more people to justice, as well as continue the biggest recruitment drive in Kent Police’s history, boosting numbers by 450 on my watch to restore nearly all of those that have been lost.

So crime recording is important, but it’s hard to reflect the true situation whilst across the country it remains so inconsistent. Many Forces have improved drastically like Kent has, but others, like the two other Forces who has their reports published today, made no real progress in the same time as Kent’s turnaround.

Again, a massive well done to Kent Police Officers and Staff for the turn around. It wasn’t easy. But you’ve performed exactly as the report says – in an outstanding way.

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