- Report claims police are putting minor offences ahead of serious crimes
- Forces use Victorian model treating crimes from theft to murder as equal
- South Yorkshire police ignored child sex abuse to chase Labour targets
4 APRIL 2016 | UPDATED: 4 APRIL 2016 | BY Arthur Martin FOR DAILY MAIL
The public are being fooled into believing the streets are safer than they really are because police place too much importance on minor offences ahead of serious crimes, a report has claimed.
Constabularies are using a Victorian model to record incidents which treats all crimes – from shoplifting to murder – as equal, researchers from the University of Cambridge have revealed.
Their research comes a year after the Daily Mail told how police in South Yorkshire ignored the sexual abuse of hundreds of young girls because they were too busy chasing Labour targets on high-volume minor offences that would earn bonuses for senior staff.
Money was diverted away from protecting children in order to pursue so-called ‘priority crimes’, according to former detective Tony Brookes. The offences – which included car crime – were considered crucial for satisfying a target culture introduced by the last Labour government.
It meant that, while young girls suffered heinous abuse at the hands of sex gangs in Sheffield and Rotherham, top brass at South Yorkshire Police could have had a perverse incentive to instruct their officers to look elsewhere. The targets have been scrapped by the Tories.
The Cambridge Institute of Criminology has now devised its Cambridge Crime Harm Index to measure offences according to the damage inflicted on victims and how long a prison sentence it could attract, rather than counting crimes as if they are all of equal seriousness. Researchers argued that their proposals would dramatically improve identification and policing of areas where the most damaging crime takes place, and help get the most dangerous criminals off the streets.
Professor Lawrence Sherman, director of the institute, said: ‘Not all crimes are equal. Counting them as if they are fosters distortion of risk and accountability.
‘If shoplifting drops while murder triples, crime is reported as “down” – yet any common sense view of public safety cries out for some adjustment for seriousness. There is no meaningful “bottom line” indicator of whether public safety is actually improving or declining in any given year or place.
‘Measuring by the number of days in prison each crime could attract ensures that police, policymakers and the public are better informed on rates and trends of crime, the risks posed and resources required.’
The study, published in academic journal Policing, compared crime across the UK over ten years using both systems. While overall crime counts between 2002 and 2012 showed a drop of 37 per cent, the index reveals ‘harm caused’ only dropped by 21 per cent.
The index is based on the number of days of imprisonment an offence would result in at the lowest starting point for an offender with no previous convictions, according to guidelines prepared for courts.
Police place too much importance on minor offences ahead of serious crimes, a report has claimed
Where penalty guidelines are expressed in community service hours, the index converts them into days, and if the starting point is a fine then it calculates how long it would take to earn the sum at adult minimum wage.
The approach should be added to the current system and would require no new funding, the criminologists claimed.
Overall there were an estimated 6.6million incidents of crime in England and Wales in the year ending in September. Last year, the first official estimates of the scale of fraud and cyber crimes were released, sparking claims the overall count could be substantially higher than previously thought.