Police chief defends crime figures

THE most senior police officer in Essex has defended his force after Home Office figures showed a large fall in the number of crimes solved in the county.

THE most senior police officer in Essex has defended his force after Home Office figures showed a large fall in the number of crimes solved in the county.

Chief Constable David Stevens reaffirmed his view that Essex remained a safe place in which to work and live, despite recorded robberies up 44% on last year and burglaries up 28%.

According to the Home Office performance monitors, the number of reported crimes solved in Essex for the financial year 2002/3 fell by 19%.

The figures reflect the general picture nationwide with more than three quarters of police forces showing similar results for solved crimes.


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But Government ministers said a new national method of recording crime introduced in all forces in April 2002 might be responsible for some inflation of the figures.

Mr Stevens said the numbers were biased towards crime statistics and did not reflect fully what police forces actually do.

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He backed the proposed expansion of the performance indicators to include other areas of crime and police work and said: "I'm confident that when the full picture emerges, Essex will have one of the best crime rates in the country.

"I am concerned that the limitations of this data may not be clearly understood. Almost half of police activity is not represented in this data. This includes all non-crime related activity including response to calls for assistance, reassurance patrol, dealing with anti-social behaviour and policing roads."

He added: "Chief officers across the country will no doubt want to look carefully at their data and consult with their management and their police authorities to see what scope there is to do that."

Robert Chambers, chair of Essex Police Authority, said because of the new way of recording crime, whereby an allegation of an offence is given an incident number, the figures were being distorted.

He said: "We were expecting substantial increases in these numbers exactly because of that reason. It does not mean to say that our actual detection rate is down, just that we have to investigate more recorded crime.

"However, what I would say, is that police officer numbers are rising – we have more than 3,000 now in Essex – and at the moment, we can't recruit fast enough.

He added: "This county is still relatively safe."

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