Crime not really up by quarter in West Yorkshire, say police

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The likelihood of becoming a victim of crime in West Yorkshire rose by four per cent last year, according to the county’s police force.

Official Government figures show that the number of offences recorded by West Yorkshire Police increased by 24.5 per cent in the 12 months to June.

Having lost 1,200 plus West Yorkshire police officers in five years, or 20 per cent of the police workforce, an increase in crime is also partly due to less officer visibility and deterrent.

Nick Smart, Police Federation

This is the second highest increase of any force in the country as well as being above the national average of eight per cent and an increase of 15 per cent for Yorkshire and the Humber.

Notable rises include a 63 per cent spike in violence against the person, 35 per cent for violence with injury and 87 per cent for violence without injury.

But the force says a “significant proportion” of this is due to the effect of changes in recording practices. It gave a similar explanation for rises seen in each of the previous four three-month periods.

West Yorkshire Police Temporary Deputy Chief Constable John Robins said: “We remain totally committed to reducing crime, re-offending and anti-social behaviour, protecting the vulnerable and supporting victims and witnesses.  

“We are pleased to be currently recruiting additional police officers and Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who will all provide a highly visible and reassuring presence on the streets of West Yorkshire in the coming years.” 

Mr Robins said the increase in recorded crime comes at a time when the force has seen an increase in the number of calls for service from the public. 

He said: “We have previously spoken about the high levels of demand we have been experiencing recently, which has been placing added pressure on our service delivery and our staff.

“We are doing everything we can to answer calls as quickly as possible and then to attend to incidents when needed. 

“To help with this, we have also recruited additional call handlers in our Contact Centre. Currently emergency calls on the 999 system are up by nearly 10 per cent, in comparison to the same weeks last year.  

“However we still answer all of these emergency calls within six seconds, on average. Maintaining that high standard does put pressure on our ability to answer non-emergency calls, which too have risen over the last year.” 

He added that a large part of the force’s daily work is “safeguarding vulnerable people, such as those missing or suffering from mental health issues”.  

Explaining the change in recording practices, he said: “Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) made recommendations around changes to our recording practices in 2014, which came into place during early 2015.

“The latest figures released today represent data from July 2014 to June 2015 compared with July 2015 to June 2016.

“The statistics therefore represent a comparison of information prior to the change in recording practices with a period during and after the changes take effect.

“It means that we are not yet in a position to provide ‘like for like’ figures and the new recording practices are still taking time to embed within the numbers we are currently reporting on.”

Nationally, violent crime recorded by police jumped by a quarter, with rises seen in offences involving the use of knives or firearms.

Forces in England and Wales saw an annual rise of 24 per cent in violence against the person offences for the year ending in June.

However, statisticians said this is thought to largely reflect factors other than a rise in actual levels of violence.

Nick Smart, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation said: “We agree with Mr Robins in that our officers are completely dedicated to keeping the public safe. We also agree that the rise in figures are partly due to much better crime data integrity.

“It is also partly due massive increase in demand for our services, which sees existing resources stretched beyond capacity.

“However it does not explain the whole picture. Having lost 1,200 plus West Yorkshire police officers in five years, or 20 per cent of the police workforce, an increase in crime is also partly due to less officer visibility and deterrent.

“It is not a surprise, especially in relation to violent crime. We have a bunch of ordinary men and women doing an extra ordinary job in difficult circumstances.

“Many feel simply overwhelmed at times with the volume and complexity of many calls they are asked deal with on a daily basis in order to keep the public safe. We are picking up far too much of other public sector bodies work as their capacity shrinks. Missing persons is a prime example.

“It is great that we are recruiting again and we fully support this. But these numbers do not replace losses, they merely keep pace with officers are are retrieving. Nor do they replace the experience that these older officers have.

“Policing in general is at real crisis point. The only way to resolve it is to invest in the service, increase meaningfully numbers and give current police officers a fighting chance of delivering the service they desperately want to give to the public.”

Police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “The statistics released today give an overview but are not fully reflective of the difficult work West Yorkshire Police carry out on a day to day basis keeping our communities safe.

“We are seeing a rise in complex and demanding cases involving safeguarding vulnerable people and this important daily work is not fully reflected in these figures.”