I am certain that even Albert Einstein would have struggled to understand the Home Office Counting Rules, which guide the police on how they should record crime.
From April 1, the National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS) will be amended in a way which will allow the police to further confuse politicians, the public and themselves with equal aplomb.
The current detection rate for crime in this country is around 29 per cent, however, as a result of the changes I believe that rate is going to magically soar. At present the police can only record an offence as detected if a person is charged or cautioned, has an offence taken into consideration, receives a penalty notice for disorder or receives a cannabis warning. Soon an offence will count as being detected, where a community resolution has taken place. A community resolution is an informal agreement between victim and offender, to settle the matter outside of the criminal justice process. It should be used for mainly first time offenders, who commit low-level crime.
While there is a need for this type of category, it is open to abuse. There will be a significant number of offences detected this way in 2014/15 which previously would have been recorded as undetected. Perhaps, the most significant changes are to do with the recording of undetected crimes. Previously an offence would be recorded as undetected, but now they will be categorised to show reasons why they remain undetected.
For example, evidential difficulties, unable to prosecute for reasons of age, health or death, not in the pubic interest, a prosecution is unlikely to succeed or a time limit has expired. Additionally, there will be categories to close an investigation due to all the lines of enquiry having been exhausted or to mark them as remaining under active investigation. This information could be of great interest and show the public that an offender is identified in far more cases than many would have previously imagined. However, I think this amended process will result in significant time and effort being wasted behind the scenes massaging data.
In April 2015, you will be reading about massively improved detection rates and proof of how evidential difficulties prevented the prosecution of even more offenders. Please remember nothing has actually changed, it will simply be changes in a bureaucratic process.