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In another shock, horror revelation, the Public Administration Committee was told yesterday that the cops sometimes fiddle the figures when recording crime.

A witness told the MPs that

“cuffing” crimes could involve officers deciding they did not believe complainants, recording multiple incidents in the same area as a single crime or recording thefts as “lost property”, burglaries as “theft from property” and attempted burglaries as “criminal damage”.

Hmm. Where have we heard this sort of thing before?

So how widespread is this, and why do they do it?

Today, Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon told an ACPO conference that ‘he had spoken to officers from many police forces who said senior officers were applying pressure on them to reduce the crime figures.’ They are

‘inadvertently… still putting pressure on officers to do all they can to manipulate and create crime reductions.  I don’t think they do it because they are inherently corrupt but because pressure is put down to reduce it. It is whether we have the nerve to step away from crime reduction and obsession with crime figures, and whether we can move to a real environment where we do properly record.

But why are these ‘senior officers’ putting this pressure on?

Probably hundreds of run of the mill bobbies have moaned to me about this since we published Wasting Police Time, Perverting the Course of Justice and the rest. They would probably answer the above question with three of their own:

1. Do senior officers get bonuses if the figures look good?

2. Do politicians get re-elected at least partly on the back of boasts and lies about crime?

3. What is a PDR?

Of course, it’s not just that sometimes a shed break-in gets recorded as damage by badgers, there’s also pressure to criminalise effectively innocent people – if you can create a ‘crime’ that you know you can ‘solve’, that’s so much better than recording actual crimes you know you probably can’t. Here’s probably my favourite piece from Inspector Gadget’s book:

LET’S go back to basics for a moment.

Lots of people probably don’t quite understand the words ‘crime’ and ‘detection’, and the role they play in modern policing.

That’s not surprising, because what they mean in reality and what they mean in surreality – ie modern policing – are often two completely different things.

In real life, a crime means something which we would all agree is against the law – theft, assault, burglary – and has an actual victim who has really suffered some harm.

In policing, a ‘crime’ – because of the ‘victim-focused’ National Crime Recording Standard I mentioned earlier – can mean, in practice, almost anything which half sounds like it might possibly be a bit like a crime and which is reported to us. (Because who are we to tell Mr Hughes that his ex’s nasty text message isn’t a crime?)

Here is one example of a non-crime taken seriously by us.

It’s late one afternoon in the middle of last December. The Christmas lights are ablaze on every house in Bigtown, and the concrete walkway outside the local Spar is covered in fresh white litter. Inside, there’s a queue of people waiting to pay for their groceries. Halfway down the line, a little girl and her mum are chatting about Santa Claus, and the presents he will be delivering in a fortnight.

In front of them is a typical Bigtown youth – Burberry scarf, Nike trainers, NY Yankees cap and a ton of bling.

Overhearing their conversation, he turns round, looks at the girl and says, ‘You don’t believe in Father Christmas, do ya? Your mum’s telling you lies… he ain’t real.’

The little girl bursts into tears and the angry mum storms out of the shop.

I like to think that, if that happened to me, I’d tell my daughter that the nasty man was talking rubbish, and chalk it up to experience.

But modern life being what it is, mum doesn’t do this; instead, she phones us on her mobile from the street outside, like it’s a police matter.

OK, so we get a call from a lady wanting to report a Santa denier.

We just tell her we’re awfully sorry but it’s not really one for us, right?

Wrong. The call-taker logs it on the system as a harassment offence. We all know that if the woman had been calling to report a criminal damage that had happened the night before she’d have got someone out a week next Tuesday. But because certain triggers are hit – there’s a child involved, this area happens to be a crime hot spot and the man is still at the scene – a patrol is despatched immediately, to speak to the mum and little girl and, if possible, grab the ‘offender’ (or seize the CCTV to see if they can ID him).

To me, that’s just about as mad as it gets. Is it, even at the edges of abstract technicality, a crime? Harassment is about causing alarm or distress to another. As a senior officer asked in the SMT morning meeting, ‘How can it be harassment to tell someone Santa doesn’t exist? I mean, he doesn’t. Does he?’

He’s got a point. Short of producing Santa himself at an ID parade and proving he’s real, the case is going nowhere. But time and resources have been wasted in a fairly ludicrous way.

Here’s another one.

Two young lads outside a newsagent. One, a 10-year-old, goes in and buys a packet of crisps. Walkers, salt and vinegar I believe. When he comes back out and opens the packet, his 11-year-old chum swoops on him, sticks a fist into the bag and legs it down the road, cackling in glee with a handful of crisps.

The first boy tells his mum and, yes, she calls us. The ‘thief’ is questioned but – horror of horrors – he denies it. This causes our whole system to collapse, because we’re all about getting people to cough to minor offences and accept cautions for them to make detections. Where do we go from here? Forensics? ID parades with witnesses from the scene who saw the boy make off with the crisps? Thankfully, there is some residual common sense in the police, and the case eventually got ‘no-crimed’ – but not before hours of police time was wasted, and only after submissions in triplicate to the crime auditors to get them to wipe it off the computer.

These aren’t isolated cases. Here are a few others from the papers recently:

– A man ‘found in possession of an egg with intent to throw’.

– A child who removed a slice of cucumber from a sandwich and threw it at another youngster.

– A woman arrested (on her wedding day) for criminal damage after her foot slipped on the accelerator and her vehicle damaged a car park barrier.

– Another child who threw cream buns at a bus.

– A 70-year-old pensioner arrested for criminal damage after cutting back a neighbour’s conifer trees.

– A man who threw a glass of water over his girlfriend.

I didn’t make any of these up. Anti-social, yes, and in some cases maybe we ought to have a quiet word with the people involved. But are they really ‘crimes’?

Once someone reports them to us as such, and the call-taker enters them onto our computer databases as such, then, yes, they are.

So that’s ‘crime’. What’s a ‘detection’?

You perhaps think this refers to a mechanism whereby the person responsible for a crime, real or surreal, is caught and punished for it.

In fact, it may just mean that a suspect has been charged* – he doesn’t have to be found guilty. Equally, he may have been cautioned, or reported for summons, or been issued with a Penalty Notice for Disorder, or the offence may have been taken into consideration when he is sentenced for other matters.

What are the implications of all of this?

They are many and varied.

Firstly, all of a sudden anyone who has been looked at a bit funny can ring the police and demand a response.

Secondly, this will mean one extra recorded crime on the force’s figures (eg ‘harassment’ for looking at someone funny).

Thirdly, we can’t just ignore them. Under NCRS, we mostly have to take them seriously, which is just one reason why it takes us three days to show up for your burglary. Plus lots of undetected ‘crimes’ make Chief Constables look bad, and worry the Home Secretary, so they have to be detected with a response that is bureaucratic and slow and will take officers off the street for hours.

Fourthly, a boy who throws a piece of cucumber at a classmate may feel under pressure to accept a caution – and a permanent entry on his criminal record. This may affect his chances of employment later in life. (Though at the rate we’re criminalising the population, it won’t be long before pretty much everyone has a record, and it’s weird if you haven’t.)

Finally, in many forces, each officer now has an individual ‘Detection Target’. If he or she does not hit this target, he or she will end up with an ‘Action Plan’ on his or her Annual Appraisal. This is essentially a negative statement on your file, which can exclude you from an interview for a specialisation or promotion at the ‘paper-sift’ stage. Helping old ladies across the road, diving into swollen rivers to rescue drowning people and preventing or deterring crime from happening in the first place – none of these count against your individual target.

Of the above implications, the only one that really matters is our figures for undetected crimes. That’s because these are the only ones that affect senior police officers and politicians.

It doesn’t matter that bobbies might be so tied up looking for youths who don’t believe in Father Christmas that they can’t come out when you’re assaulted, because senior cops and MPs don’t very often get assaulted. If the young salt and vinegar crisps thief gets a criminal record, that doesn’t matter either, because who cares? And neither does the systematic degradation of what was once a force into a ‘service’ that often only seems to serve the non-contributory members of society, because if the Chief Constable or the Lord Chief Justice or The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith MP has a gang of rowdy youths hanging around outside late at night, you can bet there’ll be a rapid and forceful response to that. (Though remember, Jacqui, that you were once a humble schoolteacher, and you won’t be Home Secretary for ever.)

PC David Copperfield was the first to break ranks and tell people about this nonsense. Since then, there have been lots of noises about how it’s all going to change, and they’re going to slash bureaucracy and cut targets. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, and I’ll believe it when I see it.

Incidentally, the crisps theft was not a lone incident. There were 500 similar thefts, of ‘nominal value under £1’, across my force in the past six months. What are these £1 thefts? Well, this might explain some of them: If your credit card is nicked and used, and the guy who stole it is later arrested with it still on him, this presents us with an opportunity. How about if the police crime this twice? Once for the deception involved in using it to buy alloy rims for his Vauxhall Corsa, and once for the theft of the actual piece of plastic, nominal value under £1.

So some copper calls you up. ‘Mr Smith, isn’t it great? We got the guy who nicked your card. We’re talking to the bank about the loss of the money, and we also want to deal with him for the card itself. Can we just come and take a quick statement from you?’

This is called a ‘Loser’s Statement’ – it’s designed to head off a defence in court that you are the thief’s best mate and you always let him use your card.

You say, ‘Yep, no problem’, and the Old Bill nip round. Result: the theft of the credit card itself is detected and the crime figures for theft look a little better. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether we’d bother criming the theft of the card if we hadn’t actually already recovered it.

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The fall in crime in England and Wales ‘may be exaggerated’, says the BBC.

What? Crime figures being manipulated to meet targets set by the idiots in government?

Who knew?

PC David Copperfield in Wasting Police Time:

The country seems to be divided between those who think that things are getting worse, and those who think that things are getting better and that it’s all in our heads.

The latter includes most politicians, the liberal left, and ACPO. Many of these people earn quite impressive salaries and can afford to live in areas where crime is, for the time being, relatively low. This may explain their optimism.

The former includes: everyone else, many of whom live in areas where crime happens, and are people to whom crime happens.

The UK population has risen steadily over the last century or so, from 38 million in 1901 to around 60 million today (note, it hasn’t doubled).

In the same period, the total number of police officers employed by the State has risen from around 40,000 to close to 130,000 now (ie it has more than trebled).

What about crime? Well, the number of indictable offences known to the police in 1900 was 2.4 for every 1,000 of the population. In 1997, the figure was 89.1. I’d put my house on the fact that it’s gone up since then.

I suppose some cynics might interpret these figures as to show that the police are actually causing crime. I wouldn’t go that far. But I do wonder this: where are all these new police officers and what are they doing?

Inspector Gadget in Perverting the Course of Justice:

I don’t trust official crime figures… I know the Home Secretary says we have more police than ever, but how many of them are working Response? I know, too, that we have PCSOs now, and that they look a bit like police, but very few of them work beyond 9pm because it’s too dangerous (it’s not too dangerous for the public, note, but it is too dangerous for PCSOs, despite their stab vests and their radios). In the first few months of 24 hour licensing, we were given enormous amounts of centrally-funded extra money to put more bodies on the street – the overtime was great for the Sergeants and PCs. As a result, everywhere you turned there were police. Once that dried up, we were back to normal – and we really don’t have the numbers to do much more than control things to a just-about acceptable level.

So, what if we could do something to the figures, to make it look like things are better? If it’s not within our gift to stop the nations’ youth getting drunk and fighting, and it’s not, the only place left for us to go to, to get the reductions we need, is our bureaucrats.

If we arrest lots of people for relatively minor things, so we get lots of ‘detections’, we at least have some ammunition to use in our defence when people start squealing about NTE ['night time economy'] crime. Or if police statisticians start to look at definitions of crime, maybe we can shift things that would have been counted into areas that wouldn’t be?

For instance, someone is being aggressive and drunk in the street. We have two options. We can arrest him for being ‘drunk and disorderly’ or for one of the offences under the Public Order Act 1986 – sections 3, 4 and 5 of which are more commonly known as ‘Affray’, ‘Threatening Behaviour’ and ‘Disorderly Conduct’.

What’s the difference? The difference is that ‘drunk and disorderly’ is not a recordable crime. You are found in that state by a police officer, arrested and bound over to keep the peace at court the next day (or, more often, given a Penalty Notice for Disorder and sent on your way). It doesn’t show up on our figures. S5 POA is recordable, and does.

There is widespread anecdotal evidence of PCs being put under pressure to arrest for drunk and disorderly. Even if they arrest for S5 POA, it can later be changed to d&d – this is perfectly legitimate, no-one is doing anything technically wrong or illegal, but it does have the added benefit of making the NTE figures look a lot better than they actually are, doesn’t it?

PC Bloggs in Diary of an On-Call Girl:

(M)y mobile rings. It is the Scrutineer Herself.

‘Hello, PC Bloggs? About this racist incident?’

‘Yes?’

‘We can’t just reclassify it.’

‘Why not?’

‘Well, how do you know it wasn’t racist?’

‘The victim doesn’t think it was.’

‘Well, how does she know it wasn’t?’

She’s got me there. I mean, just because Mrs Patel doesn’t think it was racist doesn’t mean it wasn’t, I suppose. But I recover like lightning. ‘Um… well, how do you know it was?’

There’s a momentary silence, and it sounds like an irritated one. Then she replies. ‘I will change it to a criminal damage, but unless you can provide verifiable evidence that it was not racist, the classification will have to stand.’

Will is now watching me with his head on one side, looking thoroughly amused. That’s the problem with more experienced officers: they treat all this Crime Managing stuff as a joke and just go along with what the Scrutineer wants.

I swivel my chair to face away from him and refuse to succumb. ‘Verifiable evidence that it was not racist? Like what?’

‘Perhaps if we knew the motives of the offender?’ She says this as though she is talking to a small child, or an idiot.

‘Perhaps if we knew who the offender was,’ I say, ‘I could arrest him or her and find out. Do you know who the offender was?’

‘Now, now, PC Bloggs, I know it seems pernickety, but we have to abide by ethical crime recording rules.’

‘But if it’s racist, I have to do a report to the Hate Crime Unit. I can’t do that because the victim doesn’t think it’s racist. So the report will just say that it isn’t racist, in which case why am I sending it to them?’

‘Well, I’m afraid that’s just the way it is.’

‘But…’ I am starting to doubt my sanity. ‘How did it become a racist incident in the first place? The victim doesn’t think it is, for goodness’ sake.’

‘If someone perceives it to be racist, then it is.’

‘It looks like the only person who perceives it to be racist is the Crime Centre.’

‘Well, that is ‘someone’.’

‘Look, this is just some kids chucking stuff at a door. It’s antisocial, it’s annoying and I’d love to arrest the little blighters if I knew who they were, but it isn’t racist.’

‘That’s your view.’

‘Fine… can we just file it then?’

‘Not without the report to the Hate Crime Unit. It won’t get through Crime Compliance.’

‘Fine, I’ll do the report.’ The call ends.

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Following the Manchester shootings, PC Bloggs wrote a comment piece for yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, entitled What life is like on the front line for policewomen.

(For those who haven’t read the book, a more detailed explanation can be found in Diary of an On Call Girl.)

It might read like a moan (‘Now I am a sergeant, with a team of mostly men under me. Our numbers are so depleted that I scarcely notice the gender of those turning up for work. My few female officers are as likely to work with each other as with a man, or by themselves. Extreme budget cuts have done more for gender equality than any amount of positive action.) but you’d be hard-pressed to find a less miserable person than Bloggsy.

The usual mix of sane and insane comments underneath.

One chap writes:

I do enjoy reading the comments below. Some are useful, most are not, pushing their own political square points into the round hole offered to them.
I have also been a police officer “on the front line” for over 15 years – the incident above is doubtless not the scariest thing that the author has encountered. It is however typical, and frequent. It is one that I recognise. However as a 16 stone male I am usually (but not always) able to fight them off physically – a 10 second brawl then translates into 6 hours of writing.
Equally telling, is the comment my colleague makes about being a sergeant and seeing not a team of men and women, but a team; numbers steadily declining (rapidly over the last few years regardless of who holds political office) necessitate single crewing, even at night, in the rural, or in the violent town centre I work in.
Our back up is not other officers, it is almost always doorstaff who are first to help on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday – Thursday nights as well thanks to licensing laws.
The  commentator below who babbles on about not arresting someone high on drugs, please remove your head from its current location, you will sit more comfortably – alcohol is a very potent drug and people do extraordinary things when they are pissed – as to arresting them all, you have no idea, really no idea, we do not have enough officers or enough cells.
I could write for hours about the state of policing, and the state of the country, but I see no point and I have no voice beyond this page, we are not a political entity. Just be happy we are there, our job is crap, but at least we aren’t soldiers, they have the toughest jobs.

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The crucial thing to establish, when publishing books by anonymous coppers (or anonymous anything), is their bona fides. Are they actually coppers?

Inspector Winter looked like he was; turns out he wasn’t. Before we move swiftly on, nothing to see here etc, this from behind The Times‘ paywall:

Inspector Winter was the darling of the police social media scene [er, not quite. Ed.]. At the height of last summer’s riots, he tweeted and blogged about his experiences on the front line — comforting people who had been burnt out of their businesses in Tottenham, arresting suspected rioters in dawn raids and drinking tea with bedraggled fellow officers in rescue centres. His fan base of more than 3,000 Twitter followers included police and the media, and he was even commissioned by The Daily Telegraph to write a first-person piece that described the “chaos” of policing the riots… The only problem was that Inspector Winter was not a policeman. He was a serial conman…

He spent the next two-and-a-half years on the run, effectively hiding in plain sight by visiting police stations, mixing with officers and pretending to be one of them. He fooled at least three lovers into believing that he was variously an officer in the Metropolitan Police, an officer in Essex Police, a captain in the Army and an officer in the Royal Military Police…

Ward’s claims ranged from the believable to the implausible. In Ware, Hertfordshire, he posed as Ethan Winchcombe, a major in the Royal Military Police. He told local residents he had a false leg after an incident in Afghanistan, had served in Northern Ireland and owned a series of restaurants and a garden centre. He drank at the town’s Royal Legion club and even participated in the Remembrance Day parade last year wearing an RMP uniform.

John Hawthorne, owner of the Albion pub where Ward was a regular, told The Times: “He said he had his leg shot off in Afghanistan, and that the bullet ricocheted up through his nose. We realised that wasn’t true when we saw him jogging along the street.”

Ho hum. The weird thing is, if The Daily Telegraph want pieces about riots by genuine coppers, we’ve got them coming out of our ears, and the Telegraph know that.

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Some people – an obsessive environmental health officer from Huddersfield, for instance – hate Inspector Gadget and PC Bloggs to the point where I think it probably affects their quality of life. The aforementioned chap is constantly trying to leave messages here and elsewhere; how you can harbour such a burning dislike of someone you don’t know is a mystery to me.

The general tenor of the abuse varies, and its meaning is actually sometimes hard to discern, but a recent line of attack concerned the suggestion that Bloggs is ‘corrupt’. A less corrupt person than Ms E E Bloggs you would go a long way to meet, but there it is.

Anyway, on her behalf, we have recently sent a sizeable four figure cheque to Rape Crisis, and a second, smaller one to the Police Roll of Honour Trust. She does this with all her royalty cheques, and because she won’t mention it herself I thought we should. Over the years, she has sent a lot of money to these and other charities; Gadget also has charities he (or she) supports.

I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy recently. I don’t remember the 1970s being that depressing. Perhaps modern kids won’t remembers to 2008-20?? period as being as grim as it looks to adults? This is an interesting review of that film, from the moral equivalence angle. I recommend Paul Hollander’s From the Killing Fields to the Gulag if you don’t get the point.

Finally, we’ve just agreed with Theodore Dalrymple that we will republish all of his old work, written as Anthony Daniels, in eBook format. This includes classics such as Monrovia Mon Amour, Zanzibar to Timbuktu and The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World.

As usual, the writing is excellent. Here he is in Liberia, enjoying a discussion of British press ethics and then meeting Prince Y Johnson, who smoked cigars while his men tortured President Samuel Doe to death in front of him:

Back in the Olympic, when we ran short of other things to talk about, we discussed the ethics of photography and the question of whether it was ever permissible, for the sake of art, for photographers to improve upon the arrangement of things (including bodies) as they were found, as it were, in nature. The British photographers argued that it was sometimes permissible, because it was equally possible to lie with the camera by means either of the selection of what was photographed in the first place or of subsequent editing. (How many people realised, for instance, that the famous picture of the Vietnamese girl running screaming along the road originally included a host of press photographers trotting alongside her taking pictures, who were later edited out Trotsky-like. in the interests of higher historical truth?)

But the Swiss photographer, Michel, argued that it was impermissible under any and all circumstances to rearrange things as they were found: indeed, he appeared shocked that his British colleague should already have slid so far down the slippery lope of amoral relativism. Needless to say, the discussion had some bearing on writing as well as photography, but I remained tactfully silent.

Scott secured our trouble-free entry into Johnson’s stronghold b the donation of two cigarettes to the guards, who received them with glee, but were not quite as ecstatic as the two Frelimo soldiers I recalled on the road from Beira to Zimbabwe, who literally danced (barefoot) for joy when I gave them a single cigarette between them. (And when I arrived in Tanzania, I discovered that cigarettes were sold in the market by neither the carton nor the pack, and not even by the whole cigarette, but by the single inhaled drag.)

We continued on our way and a mile or two further on arrived at Johnson’s house. Surrounding it was an astonishing collection of luxury cars: Mercedes, BMWs and even a Jaguar. There were stranded American monsters, too, in mourning for the expressways they had exchanged for the rough laterite roads of Africa, and tinted-windowed four-wheel drive vehicles of the type favoured by death squads in Latin America. Whatever else one might say against Johnson, his collection of cars made it clear that he was no starry-eyed egalitarian.

Johnson was just emerging from the house with his entourage. He was powerfully built, of average height, and dressed in a chic green jumpsuit. On one breast was pinned a brass scorpion, the badge of his movement; on the other, military decorations, whether self-inflicted I never asked. He wore dark glasses and in his hand, almost like a child’s comforter, he carried a sophisticated walkie-talkie. Seeing a delegation of foreigners, he at once began to bark importantly into it. His anxiety to impress with his command of technology was so transparent that it would have been endearing or comical, had one forgotten that only a couple of days beforehand he had killed seven people with a similar command of technology.

He aborted for the moment the tour of his little kingdom that he was about to make, to grant us an audience. Publicity came first. There was no doubting his charisma: in any crowd of men he would have drawn attention to himself, not by his antics but merely by his presence. There was nothing small about either his gestures or his emotions; when he smiled, his broad row of sparkling white teeth reminded me of a shark.

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