#003/2012 Improvements needed to the systems and processes of police crime and incident reports

A review by HMIC into the systems and processes of recording crime has found that although the majority of forces do well, and improvements have been made, there remains wide variation on accuracy.

In the first review of its kind, ‘The crime scene: A review of police crime and incident reports’, looked at the quality of crime and incident data, and the arrangements in place to ensure standards are maintained and improved across the 43 police forces in England and Wales as well as in the British Transport Police (BTP). This is the first phase of a new programme of work by HMIC that is designed to assure the public that they are getting accurate information on crime from the police.

HMIC looked in depth at two issues: incidents reported by the public converted into crimes and the use of the ‘no crime’ category by the police.

It is important for police forces to have high quality data to ensure they can establish where, when and how often crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) is happening so they can plan their work to achieve the best outcomes for victims and communities. It also means that the public, Government and HMIC can get an accurate picture of crime and ASB in a particular area.

HM Assistant Inspector of Constabulary, Vic Towell, said:

“This review gives the public and in due course, Police and Crime Commissioners, some insight into what happens when they report crimes and incidents to police. The findings are indicative and provide assurance that the crime figures published by their police forces are being probed. Whilst the majority do well, the variation between the best and worst remains too wide and needs to improve.”

HMIC’s review examined incident and crime data from each of the 43 forces across England and Wales. While the samples were relatively small, the results are indicative meaning they are sufficient to reveal a picture and generate action. HMIC found that in terms of making correct crime recording decisions from incidents, three-quarters of forces made correct decisions at least 90% of the time. However there remained a wide variation;

  • 18 forces made correct decisions in 95% and above of incidents checked;
  • 15 forces in 90–94% of incidents and
  • 11 forces in 86–89% of incidents.

Sometimes it comes to light, for example during the investigation of a crime, that no offence was committed. In these circumstances police amend the record to show ‘no crime’ occurred. The supervision and justification for making such ‘no crime’ decisions have been subject to a marked overall improvement since this area was last examined in 2009 (see HMIC’s report ‘Crime Counts’). For instance, HMIC found that 84% of no-crime decisions for violent offences were correct in 2011, compared with 64% in 2009, although there remained a degree of variability. Across all categories examined, the lowest forces recorded 75% correct ‘no crime’ decisions; in the highest force, 100% of records were appropriately ‘no crimed’.

HMIC were disappointed to find that in relation to ASB some forces are still not addressing the issue of repeat and vulnerable victims. However, as the sample size was small, HMIC is going to address this issue in greater depth as a key element of the revisit in relation to ASB, and how the service addresses it, and will report on this later in the year.

Although there is no single factor which contributes to forces consistently making good crime and incident recording decisions, several aspects are considered most influential, and these are:

  • leadership, with good governance;
  • supervision and;
  • skilled people.

HMIC found limited evidence of forces directly assessing whether their own internal audits of crime quality provided confidence that their figures gave an accurate account of their performance.

Going forward, HMIC intend to look further at those forces that are outliers or anomalous in regard to these matters.


Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the report The crime scene – A review of police crime and incident reports can be found on the HMIC website.
  2. Individual police force reports for the 43 forces in England and Wales can be viewed at www.hmic.gov.uk
  3. The findings from this review are derived from evidence gathered from an examination of key documents; a relatively small number of incident logs and crime reports; interviews with staff; and visits to police stations and police control rooms. The data collected was largely qualitative in nature. Any quantative results should be viewed as indicative only.
  4. The crime recording process has three key stages:

    i. Recording an incident: A member of the public reports an incident, or a police officer observes or discovers a crime. The police create an incident record.

    ii. Recording a crime: If the police decide a crime was committed, they create a crime record (usually straight away).

    iii. Investigating a crime: Investigations begin as soon as possible, usually with a primary investigation which looks for possible leads and gathers material evidence. A secondary, more detailed investigation then takes place to consider the evidence gathered in the primary investigation.

  5. The Home Office sets out standards for both crime and incident recording. The National Crime Recording Standard is underpinned by the Home Office Counting Rules. These aim to provide consistent standards and a victim-focused approach to recording crimes in all forces.
  6. HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the British Transport Police.
  7. For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:30pm Monday – Friday on 0203 513 0600.
  8. HMIC’s out of hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.