Crime Figures

Our national crime figures often make little sense.  How, for instance, does domestic violence rise by 35% in the course of 12 months?  It doesn’t seem likely that spouses start weiighing into each other a third more often (though even stuff like the local soccer team losing can put up the number of incidents).

The local crime map for my area shows around 330 incidents in May this year – half being antisocial behaviour.  There are 32 officers including the PCSOs – so that’s about 10 incidents each per month.  The ‘map’ is no map at all as no details beyond a set of types of crime and ASB is given.

It would be interesting to know how many of the 330 incidents is actually attended by these local team officers.  Nearly all response I’m aware of is via Response – the poor sods flying around like blue-assed flies.

The average length of police work done would be useful.  If these 330 incidents take an average on an hour, then our local plods are only doing 10 hours each a month.  I know it’s not this simple, but this figure could be accurately defined.

Steve Bennett at thinblueline has written extensively on the gaming involved in police statistics.  The BCS has shown a steady drop in crime across the UK – this survey evades senior officer juking because it’s generated directly from the public.  It generally runs at twice the police recorded level and sensibly it would.  Not all crime is reported to police.

What always gets me about these figures is what I’d do with them if they crossed my desk and were from my area of concern.  I’d toss them in the bin and see if I could get the costs of producing them off my budget.  I expect stats to help me run things – and these just don’t.  They reek of expensive PR and bonus-rigging.

One assumes none of the senior cops who were covering up the phone hacking and dubious police earners now droning 24/7 recorded the crimes they were doing nothing about.  If we could open up stuff being written off as ASB we might well find many more crimes.  The actual number doesn’t matter much – what we need to know is how they are being dealt with and the costs of this execution.  This can be done statistically and it’s precisely not what the public gets.

Most cops don’t believe ‘crime’ is falling.  It has in my parochial world because a criminal family finally moved on after 7 years of the authorities failing to deal with them.  We have hardly seen a police car since.  They went to prison, but are now active in new premises.

With only 330 incidents a month, it would be useful to know who is responsible for those incidents – 10 lousy bastards like our former neighbours or 330?  How many perpetrators are identified?  What happens to them?  What does a fair sample of victims think about police action and final outcomes?  What do those dissatisfied identify as the problem?  What would a research team looking in detail at one month discover?

The whole point of practical statistics is not the numbers, but patterns, correlation and help in control.

If the 330 incidents in May in my neighhood is all our 32 officers are doing, then it seems a very expensive solution.  With on-costs 32 times £30K  then £960K or about £3K per incident is being spent just in the local budget, probably to ‘contain’ a dozen highly dud families.  I’m doing guesstimate – but with some real stats I wouldn’t have to.  What is the actual police cost for a recorded incident?  How much of this is the burden of really serious incidents?

In comparison with any harm from phone hacking, the way lives are wrecked around anti-social criminals is far more damaging.  One would expect police statistics to identify and quantify this.  The point of statistical analysis ion organisations is quality in the broad sense.  If we take a guesstimate on each of my local officers working ten incidents a month, there seems room for substantial focus and prevention of the same people perpetrating.  Yet, as Response (rather than local) turn up, one hears the perps are well known.

I could easily database 330 incidents a month in a manner that would allow reporting to identify repeat victims and offenders, crime concentrations and so on.  Such effort is wasted if it doesn’t lead to better, different actions.  This is what we should expect to hear on police statistics.  In part we do – and the message is that we aren’t stopping the same, sad, druggie prats.

One can understand ‘scrap’ metal thefts going up as commodity prices rise – crime tends to move with other trends and what cops are targeting.  That domestic violence can leap by 35% suggests some change in reporting and classification has occurred.  The ASB rate has been going up – but is this a new set of problems or just a new bin for crime?  The point is that we don’t know.  Where is the statistic on who any of these statistics have actually led to changes other than in the wallets of some senior cops?

Or for that matter on the cost-benefits of taking 100,000 crap families out of our system by putting them in curfewed trailer parks away from the environment they mess up and commit anti-social and other crimes in?  For 500 towns that would be an estate of 200 mobile homes each.  One pilot might be enough to send the message.  Say ten places were reserved for my neighbourhood and the number of incidents dropped from 330 to 200 a month.  This is the kind of statistic I’m interested in.

If we cut policing back to 1973 levels, how much money might be available to give back to ‘deserving welfare’?  I’d like to know this – though I don’t approve of the idea.  Would the amount, for instance, be more than that available from a cull of scroungers?  Or cutting legal bills in half?  One needs some numerate grasp of spending – preferably the scum who get nicked need costing in terms of all the money they put into other people’s pockets and thus for us to know how much they are really stealing from ours as tax-payers and who has interests in maintaining the problems.

Half our neighbourhood team is PCSO.  If they can really do the job, why are we paying for ‘expensive police officers’?  A cruel statement in many ways – but unlike many parts of the private sector, wage costs are not under such easy control.  One also has to wonder at higher-level costs – could we not get decent judges and advocates at much lower cost through specialist training for criminal matters (say undergrad plus one year law school or experience plus same).  Why no statistics on this kind of efficiency gain?  If a cop is paid twice the market rate, she’s costing us as much as some delinquent families if a PCSO can really deliver or could given the powers of arrest.  Once into this kind of economic thinking, a lot of nasty savings crop up.  Everyone wants to be a special case.  What would be the wage spreadsheet on police pay if ‘marked to market’?

The likely means to curbing police pay will be cuts and inflation through other wage rises or the dumping of electronic money as quantitative easing or in exchange markets and tricks like the PCSOs.  They are only the flick of a pen away from ‘full status’.  A recruitment and promotion freeze on other ranks will help swell their numbers.  The history on this isn’t pleasant – the last real police strike led to a big cut in pay (1919-21ish).  Has your force issued real stats on what the cuts mean and how they intend to cope?

These are issues that the public should know about in order to make informed decisions on policing and no great numeracy is now required once spreadsheets are established.  This could be achieved by scrapping the police reported system and putting these resources into a costing system on incident response, actual police activities and some sampling scrutiny on what turns up in the BCS.

Police might well want to start recording more crime now – something that happened in CID years ago when the number of crimes became more important than the fudged detection rate in terms of promoted ranks that could be claimed.  Expect HMG to try to dodge this with some new criteria.  Certainly the stuff put in front of us over many years would only get short-shrift by any executive trying to run the firm.  Does ACPO have another set it works from?


4 thoughts on “Crime Figures

  1. My guess is the BCS trick is to ask the wrong questions – I take the gaming side on the cop figures.
    When you target a sample that is relevant – like victims of crime – you don’t just get different figures but a different picture. The easy dodge is to hire Ipsos or BRMB types and get a national survey based on a ‘representative sample’ which shows an 89% satisfaction rate – which really just avoids the information needed. You want the information from people having the experience you are testing. We already know people not involved will be generally ‘positive’. I presume too that lots of crime actually goes unnoticed. Cars are much harder to nick for joy riding and every drug use is a crime but the user ain’t going to report herself. When we rip up junk mail we are trashing an attempted crime etc.

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