Plans to make cuts to the independent survey which monitors crime rates across the country could hinder authorities’ ability to understand trends, according to a Yorkshire police commissioner.
A number of questions are to be removed from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, the face-to-face victimisation survey used by the Government to judge the success of policing policies, because of “public sector financial constraints”.
The Office for National Statistics, which runs the survey, is also considering further cuts such as reducing the number of households to be contacted from the current level of 35,000 a year.
Mark Burns-Williamson, police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire, has told The Yorkshire Post the changes could damage the public’s ability to understand crime trends.
He said: “[The survey] gives us the indications of genuine trends which would not be available through other sources and is a crucial component in measuring and driving forward progress in policing and community safety at a time when services have never been under more pressure.”
The annual crime survey sees people around the country asked about their experiences of a range of crimes, including their attitudes to the police and the criminal justice system, in the 12 months prior to the interview.
It is a crucial component in measuring and driving forward progress in policing and community safety at a time when services have never been under more pressure.Mark Burns-Williamson
It is thought to provide a better reflection of the true level of crime than police statistics since it includes crimes that have not been reported to, or recorded by, the police, and is not influenced by the way offences are recorded.
Despite a rise in crime recorded by police for the last year, the most recent survey showed that the amount of crime experienced by respondents had actually fallen.
Last month a consultation was launched on changes to the survey from October. It has since closed and ONS officials are considering the results.
It is proposed that all questions relating to the performance of the criminal justice system, other than the police service, will be removed.
But other options are also being considered, including making less effort to revisit homes to interview potential respondents who are hard to contact and removing other questions on topics such as anti-social behaviour.
Mr Burns-Williamson said he recently attended a meeting of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) where concerns were expressed about the proposed cuts.
The APCC will write to the ONS to say removing questions would significantly weaken the survey and “fundamentally affect how useful it can be” for crime commissioners as they try to improve the criminal justice system and victims’ services.
He said: “At a time when police recorded crime is in a position of flux due to changes in recording practices, it is more important than ever that we and the public can look to other sources of information such as the CSEW for wider understanding of public views across all of community safety.
“This is because data from the CSEW is not affected by changes in recorded practices and so helps us to understand the true levels of crime and the impact in our communities.
“I have fed into the consultation being undertaken around the future of the CSEW and have stressed how important the survey is in providing us and the public with trustworthy data.
“It gives us the indications of genuine trends which would not be available through other sources and is a crucial component in measuring and driving forward progress in policing and community safety at a time when services have never been under more pressure.”
A spokesman for the Office for National Statistics said: We are aware of the importance of the data provided by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for police forces and police and crime commissioners.
“The consultation, which has recently closed, has given us the opportunity to gather feedback from a wide range of users, including the APCC.
“We are now in the process of considering the responses we have received and will use the information to identify how best to maintain the quality and usefulness of the survey data while making the required 10 per cent cost savings of around £400,000.”