Around nine in ten of the additional crimes being recorded across Lancashire this year can be accounted for by changes in the way offences are categorised, according to one of the county’s most senior officers.
Superintendent Ian Dawson, from Lancashire Constabulary, told a meeting of the area’s Police and Crime Panel (PCP) that the force was heading towards a headline increase of 40 percent - or 60,000 extra crimes - over the course of the current financial year.
But members heard that there had been just a 2 percent increase in the number of calls to police in the county - and Supt. Dawson insisted that the statistics, when they come, will not tell the full story.
The force was criticised by inspectors last year for under-reporting 20,000 cimes. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said that only 84.3 percent of reported crime was properly recorded.
In adhering to the new standard demanded by the Crime Data Integrity Inspections, Supt. Dawson said some cases previously recorded as “incidents” are now classified as “crimes”. Papers presented to the meeting showed there were over 11,000 fewer instances of anti-social behaviour in the twelve months to June 2018 - but public order offences have leapt by more 5,000.
“Is there less anti-social behaviour? Probably not,” Supt. Dawson said, describing a “direct correlation” between the shifting statistics across the two categories. He added that “a solution” to the problem would still have been pursued by officers, even if an incident had not been identified as a crime.
Meanwhile, multiple offences are now often recorded to account for events which would previously have been treated as a single case. Panel members heard that any crime in which an offender displays a “continued course of behaviour” now has to be recorded as “harassment” - in addition to any other measure by which it is judged, such as domestic abuse.
Supt. Dawson told the panel that the force “probably wouldn’t investigate [such a] case any differently” - in spite of it falling into an additional category. Recorded cases of stalking and harassment rocketed by 237 percent during the first quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2017.
But panel member Caroline Moon, representing South Ribble Borough Council, said she found the more stringent reporting rules “fantastic”.
“Sometimes we can be short-sighted. It’s about genuinely being able to understand what’s happening,” Cllr Moon said.
“We should be dealing with [these cases] differently. If there are multiple attacks on the same person, we can pick up stalking and harassment before somebody dies,” she added.
Supt. Dawson told the panel that the “important bit is identifying risk and making the right level of resource available to vulnerable victims”.
But resources have also had to be pumped in to the department which monitors reported crime across the county - the internal audit unit has trebled its staff to 15.
The meeting heard that the elevated levels of crime would become the “new normal” for Lancashire - and forces across the country. “Comparable changes” have been recorded at good and outstanding forces like Kent and Durham, Supt. Dawson said.
And he added that the most “iconic indicator” of real crime - burglary - had recorded just a 1.9 percent increase in the first quarter of the year, making him more confident in his prediction that 90 percent of the recorded increase in all crimes was due to the new methodology.