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Essex: Crime may go up before it can come down

Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner for Essex.

Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner for Essex.

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Levels of some types of reported crime may have to go up before they come down, according to the man overseeing Essex Police.

Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Essex, has welcomed a report by the Public Administration Select Committee into police recorded crime.

The report found a target culture within some police forces led to crime being misrecorded, or not recorded at all, in a bid to hit required levels.

Mr Alston, who gave evidence to the committee in November, has set a general target to reduce crime but in a statement yesterday said he recognised some crimes such as domestice abuse, sexual offences and hate crime are under-reported by victims.

To give them confidence to come forward the PCC he has therefore said reported levels of these crimes may rise as victims speak out, before they can be reduced by Essex Police.

The committee report states: “Some PCCs consider the perverse incentives created by targets to be so serious that they have dropped all targets. We applaud them.

“The attitudes and behaviour which lead to the misrecording of crime have become ingrained, including within senior leadership. This leads to the subordination of data integrity to target-chasing.

“This can present officers with a conflict between achievement of targets and core policing values.”

Responding to the report Mr Alston said: “It is clear a rigid performance target culture can have perverse and unintended consequences.

“I am clear it is essential crime is recorded accurately and ethically. This is a matter of police integrity, of treating victims with respect and of ensuring officers have the most accurate possible information as they work both to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice.

“I am pleased crime is continuing to fall in Essex. I frequently hear from experienced police officers that they now feel liberated to work to reduce harm in our communities rather than chasing targets.

“It would be counter-productive for me to give Essex Police a target of, for instance, reducing the number of hate crimes or serious sexual offences, and I will not do so.

“I believe the responsible approach is to be prepared to accept a short-term increase in the recording of crimes which are likely to have been under-reported historically, with the long term aspiration of reducing harm and supporting victims.

“My commitment is that crime will be recorded accurately and professionally in our county.”

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary recently inspected crime recording in Essex with the full report due out shortly.

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