Oliver Cooper, Leader of the Opposition, London Borough of Camden writes to Sir David Norgrove, Chair, UK Statistics Authority.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I continue to be concerned by the misuse of crime statistics, which I know the UK Statistics Authority has taken an interest in before.

As you know, Police Recorded Crime evidence ought to be presented with appropriate caveats about its limited reliability as a measure of crime, and that greater reliance should be placed on the Crime Survey for England & Wales to give a more accurate impression of both levels of crime and direction of change of crime levels.

The removal of the National Statistics status from Police Recorded Crime in January 2014 should have served as sufficient warning to users of the statistics that Police Recorded Crime  is to be used solely within the context of statistics that have retained National Statistics status, such as the Crime Survey.  I expect that the UKSA shares my concern that politicians have not taken the UKSA’s steer on that issue.

I note this in the context of the Mayor of London using both personal and public office, including the London.gov.uk website and the @MayorOfLondon Twitter account, to misuse Police Recorded Crime statistics.  Below are a small number of exhibits:

30 October 2017: https://www.london.gov.uk/city-hall-blog/police-cuts-risking-londoners-safety
31 October 2017: https://www.london.gov.uk/city-hall-blog/sadiq-speaks-tackling-knife-crime
4 January 2018: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/sadiq-khan-crime-weak-causes-violence-london-met-police-theresa-may-home-office-stabbings-murders-a8141436.html
25 January 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/25/soaring-crime-statistics-government-neglect-cuts-police
14 February 2018: https://www.london.gov.uk/city-hall-blog/mayors-investing-ps60m-met-heres-why
4 July 2018: https://www.london.gov.uk/city-hall-blog/police-numbers-london-lowest-20-years
6 July 2018: https://www.london.gov.uk/city-hall-blog/every-borough-attends-mayors-knife-crime-summit
17 July 2018: https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/1019232589184421894

On most of these occasions, the Mayor of London does not note that his statement that ‘violent crime is rising nationally’ is entirely reliant on Police Recorded Crime data.  On some occasions he does, but does not then note the contrary context provided by the Crime Survey.  This is extremely – and I believe deliberately – misleading, and does great disservice to victims of crime, the law enforcement professionals that combat it, and the statisticians that measure it.

The ONS noted in the latest release of the Crime Survey that there had been “No change in overall violent offences” in the last year, but that the total number of violent offences had fallen from 1,896,000 in the calendar year 2011 to 1,245,000 in the calendar year 2017: a fall of 34%.  Among violence with injury – which the public sometimes understands as the definition of violent crime – the numbers were respectively 1,076,000 in 2011 and 588,000 in 2017: a fall of 45%.

As such, the Crime Survey contradicts the Mayor of London’s claim that violent crime is rising nationally.  There are some rare offences for which Police Recorded Crime is reliable, but as the UKSA acknowledges, the Crime Survey is more complete and reliable for violent crime overall, and in any fair-handed presentation of official statistics, I would expect this to be noted at least alongside the Police Recorded Crime to offer context and avoid misuse.

The UKSA has written to leading politicians that habitually misuse Police Recorded Crime statistics, such as the letter from Sir Andrew Dilnot to Jack Dromey MP dated 18 February 2016.  Please could you analyse the above for accuracy and advise if you could remind the Mayor of London to present this more accurate information in future?

Kind regards,

Oliver Cooper

Leader of the Opposition, London Borough of Camden

Councillor, Hampstead Town ward

Leader of the Conservative Group

Related Links

Sir David Norgrove to Sadiq Khan (August 2018)