Police say violent crime is up, but it may be the way it’s recorded

police hi viz jacketsViolent assault in London jumped by a fifth in the past year, according to data from the Metropolitan Police. There were nearly 70,000 recorded assaults causing injury, or in the more serious cases, grievous bodily harm in the year to March.

Harassment and common assault, which covers the threat of being hurt, were up by 38%. And sexual offences rose by a third to 15,000.

The overall crime rate in London has remained static at 700,000 offences.  While crimes against people went up there was better news for crimes against property with theft down 7%, burglary down 14% and a 22% fall in robbery.

Crime chart March 2015

But the rising figures that give a frightening picture of life on the streets of London may be a product of the way crime is being recorded by the police.

The Met, along with other police services, was criticised last year by HM Inspector of Constabulary for under-recording many serious offences.  As a result, recording procedures have  improved.  In evidence to the Greater London Authority Police and Crime Committee last autumn the Met said that the number of reports of violent incidents recorded as crimes has risen from 40% in 2012 to 75%.  Assistant Commissioner Helen Knight also said that a third of assault cases were the result of domestic abuse, which is now much better recorded.

Figures from the London Ambulance Service, reported by Urbs, give a different picture of violent crime.  Its records show that crews attended 20% fewer incidents that they believed to be assaults in the last year. The difference in levels may indicate that they attend only the more serious incidents.

Crime Assault comparison

Many experts are sceptical of the ability of police recording to accurately reflect true levels of crime and prefer to use the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which interviews 50,000 people about their experience. It finds that violent crime is on a downward trend.

Source data