Police recorded crime statistics provide a good measure of trends in well-reported crimes, are an important indicator of police workload, and can be used for local crime-pattern analysis. They do not, however, include crimes that have not been reported to the police or that the police decide not to record.
Police recording practice is governed by the Home Office Counting Rules and the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS).
What is the National Crime Recording Standard?
The NCRS was introduced in all police forces in April 2002 to make crime recording more consistent. In December 2004, the Audit Commission published an assessment of crime recording and concluded that the quality of crime recording by the police had generally improved. Compliance with the NCRS has improved over time, with audits commissioned by the Police Standards Unit showing substantial improvements in compliance between year 1 (2003) and year 2 (2004).
Police recorded crime statistics, like any administrative data, will be affected by the rules governing the recording of data, systems in place and operational decisions on the allocation of resources. They need to be interpreted in this light, and where appropriate this is commented on in our publications.
Police recorded crime statistics cover all ‘notifiable’ offences recorded by the police. This does not mean all criminal offences, as almost all the more minor summary offences are excluded (even though the police may record them for their own investigations). The term ‘notifiable’ covers offences that are notified to the Home Office, and they are collectively known as ‘recorded crime’.
The crime recording process
The crime recording process has three key stages:
Reporting a crime: someone reports to the police that a crime has been committed or the police observe or discover a crime. In these cases the police should register a crime-related incident, and then decide whether to record it as a crime. From April 2002, the police comply with the National Crime Recording Standard in making this decision, although generally the police would record these reports of crime if they amount to a ‘notifiable’ offence and there is no credible evidence to the contrary.
Recording a crime: the police decide to record the report of a crime and now need to determine how many crimes to record and what their offence types are. The Home Office issues rules to police forces on the counting and classification of crime. These Counting Rules for Recorded Crime are mostly straightforward, as most crimes are counted as ‘one crime per victim’ and the offence committed is obvious (e.g. a domestic burglary). However, they also cover special situations where more than one offence has taken place, maybe on several occasions over a period of time, or there is more than one offender or victim.
Detecting a crime: once a crime is recorded and investigated, and evidence is collected to link the crime to a suspect, it can be detected according to criteria in the Detections Guidance contained in the Home Office Counting Rules. In many cases, someone is charged or cautioned or the court has taken the offence into consideration (TIC). The detections guidance covers these detection methods as well as certain others where the police take no further action.
Our crime statistics publications contain further details on the reporting, recording and detecting processes as part of their commentary and analysis of current trends.
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