Ratings suggest increase in severity of crime in recent years

The man needed medical treatment for two broken ribs and his phone and stick were damaged in the attack.

The ‘crime severity score’ was developed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - Credit: Archant

New figures suggest serious crimes have become increasingly severe across Suffolk.

A recently devised data measure found that the severity of crime had gone up by half since 2014/15, despite a notable fall during the last year due to restrictions on movement. 

However, police urged extreme caution in interpreting the ‘crime severity score’ – developed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to reflect the greater harm caused by more serious offences – and said the data should be considered in the context of broader crime statistics out next month.

According to the figures, the crime severity score for total recorded crime increased from 7.5 in 2014/15 to 11.4 in 2020/21 – below the national average of 13.6. 

In Ipswich, the crime severity score for total recorded crime was 17.8 in 2020/21, compared to 13.5 in Colchester and 21.5 in Norwich.

Based on sentencing data, the scoring system attributes the greatest weight to serious, victim based crimes like homicide, sexual assault and robbery, while ascribing the lowest weight to offences like possession of cannabis.

Once calculated, the weight of each offence is multiplied by the number of incidents and divided by the population.

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Police said it meant the overall score could fluctuate simply due the number of crimes recorded – meaning 100 crimes of low severity could score higher than 20 of higher severity.

Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Smith said the dataset used a current severity score consistently across time, rather than applying different scores at different points to reflect changes in sentencing guidelines – meaning an assault against a police officer would return the same score across all years, despite guidelines having changed over the years.

Detective Superintendent Andy Smith of Suffolk police. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Smith of Suffolk Constabulary

"This means that the data is not actually tracking the true severity of crime, which can only be done by tracking changes in severity scores over time – it’s tracking the composition of our total crime," he added. 

"Recording 50% more assaults against a constable doesn’t necessarily mean those assaults are getting more serious; it means we’re recording proportionately more of them compared to previous years."

Det Ch Supt Smith said that violence against the person was the only area to show a real increase in severity against a fall in total incidents – in part down to low numbers of high harm modern slavery offences, but also due to a significantly higher proportion of offences being recorded as stalking last year.