The latest reported crime statistics are worrying. They show a 13 per cent rise in the year to June. This has given rise to alarmist headlines – not in The Independent, we hasten to add – particularly about a supposed 19 per cent rise in violent crimes. But the Office for National Statistics, which collates the figures, warns that the increases are partly an illusion caused by the better recording of crimes.
The Crime Survey, a huge random-sample study of England and Wales, suggests that overall crime has in fact fallen by 9 per cent over the same period. This survey is more reliable because it is consistent from year to year and relies on 38,000 people reporting crime as it affects them.
However, John Flatley, head of crime statistics at the ONS, says that, although some of the rise in reported crime was the artificial product of improved police procedures, “we judge that there have been genuine increases in crime – particularly in some of the low incidence but more harmful categories”.
This is the part about which we ought to be concerned. If it is the case that the small number of serious violent offences is increasing, while petty offending continues to decline, then this requires a rethink about police budgets over the next few years.
It is worth remembering the trouble Theresa May, the Home Secretary turned Prime Minister, got into during the election campaign over police numbers. While she could just about make the case, in the wake of the Manchester and London Bridge terrorist attacks, that anti-terrorist police numbers had not been cut, voters were rightly sceptical.
With police budgets taking deep cuts – 18 per cent over the past five years – and overall police numbers falling, the idea that anti-terrorist forces could be ring-fenced from the police service as a whole is unconvincing. What applies to terrorism applies to serious crime more generally: if overall police numbers are cut, it would be harder for…