Since our study, The Cost of Crime, was released we've had some interesting responses - some trying, and failing, to undermine our report while most are very positive - and some new figures from Nottingham and Lincolnshire.
Lincoln's Freedom of Information request was sent to an inactive e-mail address which delayed getting a response. Their data arrived yesterday. We've run the calculations and the figures are the following:
Total cost of crime: £152.4 million
Cost of crime per person: £222.13
Cost of crime per person rank: 34
Nottinghamshire Police contacted the press this morning telling them that there were errors in the figures they had sent to us. They didn't bother to send us the correction but we rang them to find out what was going on and now have the new figures. They are significantly lower than the original numbers that we were supplied.
We're not quite sure what caused the error at their end. A typo or single flawed category would lead to a big difference in the numbers of one type of crime while the others remained unchanged - instead all of the figures are a bit smaller. We have asked what happened and hopefully they will get back to us but, in the meantime, here are Nottingham's revised figures:
Total cost of crime: £375.4 million
Cost of crime per person: £355.70
Cost of crime per person rank: 8
This clearly affects the rankings of other forces. E.g. London moves up to 1.
Just to again make it absolutely clear. Nottingham did not find a flaw in our calculations. They corrected a mistake on their own part in sending us flawed figures in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Here's the headline in the Nottingham Evening Post:
"NOTTS POLICE ADMIT ERROR IN COST OF CRIME STUDY"
Derbyshire police tried to cast doubt on our figures in the Derby Evening Telegraph:
"However, the alliance admits that the data for some forces is from the calendar year 2007, while others, including Derbyshire, have supplied information for 2007-8, making comparisons difficult."
It doesn't make comparisons that difficult. Financial years and calendar years both contain the same months. Unless crime has rocketed in the last few months of the financial year there is little reason to think that comparisons between forces like Derbyshire, who failed to provide 2007 data, and others will be biased against Derbyshire.
"In addition, some forces have given more information than others."
Indeed. One of the forces that failed most spectacularly to give us a simple answer to a pretty simple question (e.g. how many crimes of 'common assault' took place in 2007) was Derbyshire. We took great care in extracting the right information from what they sent us, and no errors have been found, so there is no reason to think there are errors but, yes, it would be better if Derbyshire police had respected the Freedom of Information Act.
"A Derbyshire police spokesman said: “We have to ask what value reports like this can bring to the public when the way they are complied is effectively flawed. The data supplied differs greatly from force to force, some forces haven't responded at all and they are using a notional costing of crime. Essentially it ends up being an unhelpful analysis with no actual logical conclusion for the public to draw upon."
The data supplied should be comparable. The National Crime Recording Standard, introduced in 2002, should mean that police data is reliable and consistent. The figures are compared in government documents such as the Home Office Crime in England and Wales report.
Three forces haven't responded but that doesn't mean we can't draw comparisons between the forty forces who have. The costing of crime is taken from national estimates produced by the Home Office which set out the average costs of a crime. While the cost of each type of crime will vary those averages offer us the best way available to draw meaningful conclusions about aggregate crime.
Derbyshire Police have not uncovered any problems with our report.
On the other hand, there have been some very encouraging and positive responses to our report. The Association of Chief Police Officers commented to the Telegraph:
"A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “When we place estimates on the costs of crime we should also consider the impact on victims and on neighbourhood confidence.
“This is one reason why ACPO remains committed to the development of a visible and responsive policing presence in the shape of a neighbourhood policing team in every local area.
“Neighbourhood policing teams offer the opportunity for local forces to work with their partners and communities to address areas of concern.”
“While there is an acceptable level of paperwork in any accountable organisation, forces around the country are committed to reducing the level of bureaucracy.
“In fact, in partnership with government, a trial scheme is currently underway in four forces which is designed to see how we can work in a less bureaucratic way."
Dominic Grieve, Shadow Home Secretary, responded:
"It confirms what we have been saying for some time - that we need urgent action to slash unnecessary paperwork to get officers back on the streets, as well as action to restore local accountabilty in policing."
The Home Office acknowledge the problem that our report points to:
"Estimates of the current costs of crime (like the Taxpayers’ Alliance estimates) serve to recognise that there is a continuing cost associated with crime, and a need to seek new ways to reduce it."
Hopefully the politicians will reflect on our report and we can move towards the local accountability and transparency that can drive forward improvements in police performance.
The Liberal Democrats have issued a response. Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne, said:
"The costs of crime are shocking whether calculated financially, with violent crime accounting for half of the total at £8.5 billion, or in its human dimension.
Ministers must stop directing the police from Whitehall and allow them to respond to the concerns of local people.
Over-centralisation and the ridiculous targets system have left police forces unaccountable to local people and tangled in red tape."