Chris Grayling: "We don't make the statistics"

A weak defence against claims that the Tories manipulated violent crime figures.

The Tory shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, went on the Today programme this morning to deny that the Conservatives have been using misleading statistics on violent crime.

The dispute is over a claim, made by Tory Central Office, that violent crime in "broken Britain" has risen by 70 per cent in the past decade. But the statistics used to reach this conclusion are not directly comparable, due to a big change in the way the numbers were recorded with the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) in 2002. The BBC's Mark Easton, who uncovered the discrepancy, explains:

Before 2002 the decision as to whether an incident was a violent crime had been taken by police. After 2002, officers were obliged to record all incidents as violent crimes if the alleged victim said that is what it was. The aim was to stop police fiddling the figures and to get a better picture of violence. The obvious consequence was to send the raw numbers shooting up.

Grayling's defence this morning was as follows:

There are certainly changes in the recording methods, but the point is that they are the only comparators available. They are published by the Home Office . . . As an opposition party, we don't make the statistics. We can only use what the Home Office publishes.

This is a slightly disingenuous line of argument (these are the only two sets of numbers, so we should compare them, even though to do so is inaccurate . . . ?). As Easton points out, the Home Office document cited clearly highlights that "figures before and after [April 2002] are not directly comparable". Grayling's fellow Tory Iain Duncan Smith agrees with Easton that the NCRS "changed recording methods significantly and has rendered direct numerical comparisons with pre-2002/03 levels inaccurate".

The numbers, distributed to Tory MPs to use in local campaigns, imply a 236 per cent rise in violent crime in Milton Keynes, translating to roughly one attack every 90 minutes. This is inaccurate, as it includes very minor public order offences -- which is a shame, really, as an attack every hour and a half sounds rather reminiscent of the violent American TV show the Wire . . .

Grayling has got more. He dismissed the findings of the British Crime Survey, which found that people were experiencing roughly 50 per cent less violent crime on 1995 levels, arguing:

If you talk to anybody in the streets, and particularly in the poorest areas which are most affected by violent crime, you will find people will absolutely say that violent crime has risen sharply over the last ten years.

The reality is that that is the life they are experiencing. The problem we have got to deal with is not debates over statistics. It is actually sorting out these problems.

Excellent. Man implicated in statistics fiddling row says that statistics aren't really the point at all. Case closed.

 

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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