Beware false security of falling crime figures

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Crime levels are at a record low in England and Wales, according to the official crime survey, which is a remarkable achievement considering there are now thousands fewer police patrolling our streets.

However, these figures are misleading and do not accurately reflect the picture of developing criminality within the UK.

Crime and criminality is changing at a pace, especially in the areas of fraud, cybercrime and sexual offences. Arguably, many people are more at risk of becoming a victim of crime due to the activities of an internationally based criminal than a local thug. Even crime which has been regarded as less serious, such as shoplifting, has become the focus of organised criminal gangs.

Last week it was announced UK retail crime was at a 10-year all time high. What was noteworthy was whilst the volume of theft had reduced by four per cent, the actual value of the thefts had increased to £241 per incident.

So in effect petty pilfering by minor criminals and drug addicts is being reduced but there is an increase in organised criminals stealing to order. In fact it’s estimated 40 per cent of shop theft is now committed by organised gangs.

This means shoplifters are no longer just shoving a packet of bacon up their jumper but instead are using foil lined bags and equipment to remove security tags to help them steal high value items. At the same time shoplifting has risen among the more professional criminal, HMIC, ACPO and the Home Secretary are questioning whether the police should even be dealing with offences such as shoplifting.

A dangerous situation is being created; the alleged reduction in crime is giving senior political figures a false sense of security, which may lead to a further reduction in police resources. The reality is many criminals are simply becoming more focused, innovative, professional and organised. The crime figures being relied upon so heavily are mainly reflecting the activities of normal everyday criminal activity which has previously been the bread and butter of policing.

Using these outdated crime statistics to gauge the safety of this country and the performance of this police is no longer valid, as the current and future crime threats are very different from those being reported on. Minor and volume crime may well be decreasing but organised and more serious criminality is increasing.