Just How Good Are Those British Crime Statistics?.

(h/t to Lurch at Gun Culture)

From the Sunday Telegraph:

When the crime is to speak out
By Daniel Foggo
(Filed: 24/04/2005)

Picture this: you are a retired senior policeman who has information that gun crimes are going unreported because some of your former colleagues are not registering them. You report what you know to a Sunday newspaper, and the next day two detectives knock on your door.

At first you might be impressed by their prompt reaction. But then you discover that your visitors are from the “professional standards” unit (the subdivision of every force that polices its own officers) and have no interest in the truth of your claim. What they want to know is which serving policemen have spoken to you.

They are not concerned that shootings are spiralling out of control while being deliberately unrecorded in order not to spoil the crime figures: no, they want to discipline the officers for speaking out of turn.

This is what happened to former Detective Superintendent Peter Coles last Monday. The day before he had been quoted in this newspaper saying that gun crime in Nottinghamshire, where he was once head of the CID, was under-reported. Criminals turning up in hospital with gunshot wounds were often reluctant to involve the police, which led officers to treat the incidents as “no crimes”, Mr Coles said.

One of the few things that will make police forces stir these days, as Mr Coles discovered, is the slightest hint that their officers are talking to outsiders about embarrassing matters. Going “off-message” is now as much frowned upon by the police as it is by their New Labour paymasters.

Take the crime statistics. Under Labour, they are used to convey an expedient message of the rosiest hue. It would not help senior officers’ careers if they were to speak out about the glaring gaps in the Government’s compiling methods. So the prevailing face of most forces is one of sanguine denial.

Nottinghamshire police’s particular problem is that when their primary dissenter broke ranks last month it turned out to be their own Chief Constable, Steve Green. He admitted to me that his force was reeling under the murder rate and was going to have to “farm out” inquiries to other forces.

His reaction when we published the story was stupefying and gives great insight into the fear that going “off-message” engenders even in chief constables. His press office, who had helped arrange the interview with me and agreed the areas that Mr Green would discuss, announced that the Chief Constable had been “blackmailed” into giving the interview. This was utterly untrue and inherently preposterous. Yet in making the claim, the police tried to deflect attention away from the significance of what Mr Green had actually admitted – that his force could not cope with the slaughter on its streets – by suggesting that the more important issue was that he had been compelled against his will into saying what he did.

I have since been informed that Nottinghamshire police’s professional standards team has been trying to access my phone records and those of a colleague to find out which officers may have spoken out. This kind of behaviour is not unusual. Police forces now consider whistleblowing as a form of corruption that should be rooted out. The officers concerned may be revealing matters that are in the public interest, but this is not a consideration.

Three days after the knock on Mr Coles’s door, Nottinghamshire police revealed their latest crime figures, which showed a more than 10 per cent drop over the year. Naysayers, such as Mr Coles, who claim that the statistics are inaccurate, are not appreciated at such a time. As he is retired, the force cannot touch him but they can, and will, pursue anyone who might have given him information.

Getting to the truth behind the statistics and spin of crime figures is becoming increasingly difficult. Rare chinks of clarity, such as Mr Green’s interview, are quickly covered over. A fortnight after talking to The Telegraph Mr Green admitted that his interview “was not my finest hour”.

I beg to differ. It was probably his most conspicuous act of public service.

But crime is going down in England and Wales! Really!

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