Large Increases in Reported Violent and Sexual Crimes in Cambridgeshire


Friday, January 23rd, 2015. 3:08am

Missing: Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright Failed to Make Himself Available to Radio Cambridgeshire to Answer Questions on the Latest Crime Statistics

On the 22nd of January 2015 the UK Government released the latest crime statistics:

The release prompted news coverage locally in Cambridgeshire:

I have extracted the Q1 2013/14 and Q1 2014/15 figures for reported sexual and violent crime in Cambridgeshire out of the published statistics:

  • Assault without injury is up 69% from 539 to 913 cases
  • Assault with injury is up 39% from 688 to 956 cases
  • Total sexual offences are up 50% from 204 to 306 cases
  • The sexual offence with the largest number of cases was “Sexual assault on a female aged 13 and over” up from 60 cases in 2013/14 to 78 in 2014/15.
  • The second largest number of cases of sexual offences were “Rape of a female aged 16 and over”, up from 32 cases in 2013/14 to 54 in 2014/15
  • The sexual offence with largest percentage increase in number of cases was “Sexual activity involving child under 16″ up from 14 cases in 2013/14 to 35 in 2014/15 9a 150% increase)

These figures do on first glance appear very alarming; they suggest Cambridgeshire has become less safe and crime levels have rocketed. Police crime statistics and levels of crime are though two completely different things.

One key piece of missing information from the national statistics is how many of the violent crimes are domestic violence. The reason this is important is the police, and local councillors, have been trying to get the number of domestic violence cases reported to increase for a couple of years now. The police and councils have taken steps to encourage reporting of this type of crime.

More reports could reflect that this strategy is working and people are more prepared to come to the police.

While these statistics have just been published nationally we have been seeing similar statistics locally over the last year or so. I and others have asked for the different types of violent crime to be separated. For example the police have told Cambridge’s North Area Committee that a lot of violent crime recorded in their area is between criminals who know each other. I think this is quite different from domestic violence, and from violence from strangers against people in the city’s roads and public places, and should be reported separately.

Move to Using Injury Statistics

Rather than rely on police statistics to assess the effectiveness of policing and how safe Cambridgeshire is I would rather we looked at the number, and severity, of injuries caused by criminal acts. If we saw a reduction in injuries from one period of time to the next we would really know for sure that there was a significant improvement of people’s lives, with a reduction in trauma, pain, disfigurement and disability which can be the consequence of injuries.

I have campaigned for this for many years, and continue to do so, for example at the South Cambridge police priority setting meeting in July 2012, and at Cambridge’s North Area Committee in November 2013 and December 2014:

Sexual Crime Increase

The 50% increase in sexual crimes is based on some relatively low numbers when compared with violent crimes. When the absolute numbers are lower, fewer additional crimes result in higher percentage increases so it’s important to look at the number as well as the percentage rise.

This is a national trend and the report states:

The numbers of rapes (24,043) and other sexual offences (48,934) are the highest recorded by the police since 2002/03. As well as improvements in recording, this is thought to reflect a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes.

and

The increase in people coming forward to report sexual offences is likely to be due to a wider ‘Operation Yewtree’ effect, where victims of sexual offences that are not directly connected to Yewtree are now reporting these offences to the police.

Questions to Ask

Sexual Crime

Neither Cambridgeshire Police or Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner have been prepared to answer questions on these statistics on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the 22nd of January. (This is becoming a worrying trend).

On the sexual crimes we need to know if the reasons given for the national trend apply in Cambridgeshire. I would also like to know if the cases being reported in this time period took place in this period or if they include historical cases people are now having the confidence to report.

There has also been pressure on the police to record reported sexual crimes; so improved practices there may have led to an increase in the statistics.

Violent Crime

On the violent crime I think the key question is:

How much of the increase in recorded violent crime in Cambridgeshire is due to increased reporting of domestic violence?

I would hope that either the Police and Crime Commissioner or Chief Constable would be able to provide us all with an assurance that despite what the figures appear to indicate at first glance that Cambridgeshire has not suddenly got less safe.

Crime Survey for England and Wales

The police recorded crime figures were released alongside results of a highly reputable and long running survey, previously called the “British Crime Survey”, which questions around 50,000 people per year on their experiences of crime. (There are problems, it doesn’t cover all offences eg. as it’s hard to ask people if they’ve been murdered, and less flippantly face to face surveys asking people about sexual crimes are not expected to produce accurate results).

The survey results for this year report the lowest number of incidents the survey has found since it started in 1981.

Teenagers hanging around on the street

I was disappointed to see statistics on “teenagers hanging around on the street” in the crime statistics report (under “anti-social behaviour”). I don’t think there is anything wrong with hanging around on streets and think it was wrong to bring in anti-social behaviour laws which can, in some circumstances, criminalise it (the offence technically being not to comply with a direction to stop hanging around on the street!).

Discussion on the Radio

Due to the absence of the Police and Crime Commissioner or anyone from the police prepared to answer questions I got to discuss the statistics on Chris Mann’s BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Drivetime show, with Paul Bullen of UKIP:

See Also

14 comments/updates on “Large Increases in Reported Violent and Sexual Crimes in Cambridgeshire

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    The debate continued on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire the following day.

    Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright still hadn’t made himself available for interview; and neither had anyone from the police force.

    I discussed the statistics on the Paul Stainton show with Ed Murphy a Labour councillor for Ravensthorpe ward in Peterborough who stood in the election for Police and Crime Commissioner:

    1. paul Lythgoe

      For the most part this discussion with yourself and Ed Murphey was at a good level highlighting the lack of transparency within the figures as you have made clear elsewhere. Dissapointing that the public commentator was allowed to make largely unchallenged completely unsupported allegations that the rise in crime was entirely due to the rise in Eastern european immigration. The discussion was about evdenced based statistics and then the BBC allows someone to spout his own prejudices on the back of them stoking unsupported hatred and fear.

  2. Bernard

    I am always cautious in accepting ‘they are more willing to report’ argument for an increase in violent crimes be they sexual, domestic or other. In the apparent absence of any analysis the reason could be that there are more offences being committed.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    At the Police and Crime Panel meeting on the 28th of January 2015 Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright was questioned a number of times on the increased rates of reported sexual and violent crime.

    Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright repeated the statement that he had made blaming the increases on increased reporting of crime (rather than higher crime levels).

    Cllr Peter Reeve called this response filppant and urged evidenced based rather than anecdote based reporting to the Police and Crime Panel.

    Independent member of the Police and Crime Panel Edward Leigh asked the Police and Crime Commissioner if it was possible to separate the crimes the police had newly encouraged people to report from others. Police and Crime Commissioner Bright said yes, this was possible.

    Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright told the panel that he had written to the police force asking them to provide him with a breakdown of the increase in reported violent and sexual crimes, separating those considered to be due to additional confidence in reporting.

    Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright offered to share the response he receives with independent member Edward Leigh.

    I have asked Mr Leigh if he will publish the material when he receives it:

    Cllr Shellens asked if the panel as a body, and as a whole, could see the response. Police and Crime Commissioner Bright responded to say it would be published along with his board papers in due course; but offered to send it to the panel when he published it with the papers. The Police and Crime Commissioner appeared annoyed by the question – asking the panel if his publication of the material online was not good enough for them.

    We know from the material published on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website at the time of writing his last “Business Coordination Board” (a private meeting, which he doesn’t give notice of in advance) was due to be held on the 20th of January 2015. The papers for that meeting have not yet been published. It’s only in the papers for the previous meeting that the public find out about the date of the next one.

    I wondered, given the Police and Crime Commissioner’s answers, if he realised he doesn’t publish his Business Co-ordination Board papers until well after the meetings take place. I saw the Police and Crime Commissioner outside the building and asked him. He appeared fully aware of how un-transparently he was operating. I explained to the Police and Crime Commissioner that publishing his papers in advance would mean he would get many people helping him interpret the response from the police, but he defended his decisions not to publish any papers in advance saying “that is was the way we have always operated”.

    The Police and Crime Commissioner also, stated, unprompted:

    I don’t give you interviews. I never have. I don’t intend to.

    He also suggested I wasn’t a member of the public.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Video and Full Transcript of Encounter

      Richard Taylor: Are you aware that your Business Co-ordination Board papers are not published online until after the meetings?
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Say that again?
      Richard Taylor: Your Business Co-ordination Board papers are not published online until after the meetings. You seemed to suggest that we could go on and see the response from the police on the increases in sexual and violent crime by looking at your papers but we’re not going to get those until after your Business Co-ordination Board has met, in secret, are we?
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: You don’t usually get them till then.
      Richard Taylor: No. That’s what I’m saying.
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I hear what you are saying.
      Richard Taylor: Are you aware of that. So obviously you are aware.
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well yes I am aware.
      Richard Taylor: So you will be providing them to [independent member of the Police and Crime Panel Edward Leigh in advance, why can't we all see them in advance.
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well that's the way we've always operated.
      Richard Taylor: It's not a very transparent way. It doesn't let the public help you does it.
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: We are transparent in that everyone knows what we've talked about.
      Richard Taylor: But a lot of us want to help you and would look at those figures before you consider them at your Business Co-ordination Board.
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: While you are recording that, thank you for your support last week.
      Richard Taylor: Well I had to because you wouldn't come on and talk to the media about the increases in violent crime and sexual crime.
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I would. I wasn't here.
      Richard Taylor: Well where were you commissioner?
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I was at a meeting in London.
      Richard Taylor: and you couldn't find a telephone?
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: It wasn't a question of that.
      Richard Taylor: if you did do an interview what would you have said? That you didn't know [if the increase in violent and sexual crimes were due to increased reporting]?
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I don’t give you interviews. I never have and don’t intend to.
      Richard Taylor: But surely your job is to answer questions from the public? It’s a straightforward question.
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: You’re not the public.
      Richard Taylor: What fraction of the increase in violent crime is due to increased reporting?
      Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: [Exits stage left, up steps].

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    At the Police and Crime Panel on the 28th of January 2015 Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright said:

    On both hate crime and on domestic violence we have actively been encouraging people to report crimes. It’s underreported. People haven’t got the confidence to report crimes. That’s the fact of the problem. You need confidence. We’ve been talking, particularly in schools, on hate crime because there’s a lot of hate crime sort of aimed at young people and they’re using the internet obviously to do that. To get them to come out and report. So the result is we’re getting more crimes reported. It’s not actually crime going up it’s just that we know about it rather than it being under cover. This is what we’ve made a real effort to try and do and I’m delighted that the numbers have gone up, I’m delighted they’re going up because people are actually talking about it and it’s been various high level cases that has sort of brought this out and helped people want to talk about it.

    1. paul Lythgoe

      Knee jerk reaction from the PCC… crime going down – its good news crime is really going down. crime goes up – its good news people are doing what we asked and reporting more crime. Crime isn’t really going up. No need to consider then the social impacts of austerity, cuts in social services, the withdrawl of support of mental health services, the rise in use of foodbanks, sancions for those on benefits etc.
      Luckily we have a police and crime panel made up largely of people who have supported these cuts and who have a history of really challenging the PCC!

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    It looks as if the Police and Crime Commissioner may, on reflection, have decided to provide the panel with the response he gets from the police breaking down the increases in violent and sexual crimes:

    Quite why the Police and Crime Commissioner won’t just publish the response on his website when he gets it I don’t know. The police could even publish the response on their website when they provide it to the Police and Crime Commissioner.

    Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel, unlike those elsewhere, doesn’t really have a website. It has its membership, key documents, and meeting papers included on Peterborough City Council’s website.

    Will there be any publicity surrounding the publication on the Police and Crime Panel’s webpages? Where on the website will it be published? (I could imagine it might be slipped in among past meeting papers for example).

    I have sought clarification:

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Mr Leigh has clarified he was quoting from an email from the Police and Crime Commissioner:

      It is excellent that the Police and Crime Commissioner has reconsidered his position; though what we have is still a very bizarre and convoluted way of getting material into the public domain.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner was eventually interviewed about the crime statistics by Dotty McLeod on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Breakfast Show on the 30th of January 2015.

    Dotty McLeod noted that while the statistics were published a week ago Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright had been “too busy” until today to answer questions on them.

    Dotty McLeod: I accept what you say and sometimes you need a bit of time to interpret figures, but a week? Isn’t it your job to come on the radio and reassure the public about figures like this?
    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: You went ahead very rapidly and I was in a meeting elsewhere and couldn’t be with you and ..
    Dotty McLeod: We’re a news organisation we can’t apologise for reporting the news quickly.
    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well you sometimes try and jump in before it happens. I hadn’t seen those stats at all and it took us by surprise when they came out.
    Dotty McLeod: Now I don’t find that particularly reassuring. That the media were picking up on crime figures before the Police and Crime Commissioner.
    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright:Well The Police and Crime Commissioner was elsewhere working. I’m not sitting and looking at reports all the time.

    Dotty McLeod: Isn’t it your job though to be on top of figures like this?
    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well with due respect the police were, the constabulary issued a statement, I issued a statement which was clear for you to see what it was all about but to actually get into the really looking at those figures we needed more time which is why I’ve asked the police to look further because I’m still not happy with what I’m seeing on there. There are reasons. One of the violence against the person figures which is up 38% I mean I’m being told that because we’re recording crimes more accurately and that now includes violence against the person if someone actually gets a scratch so it’s a very sort of subjective thing and we need to know about that. I need to know about it, you need to know about it, but it takes time to dig deep in on that. And what I don’t do and never have and never will is give knee-jerk answers which haven’t got substance to them.

    Crime doesn’t need to involve physical injury for it to be categorised as violent so the comment from the commissioner on recording “just a scratch” is baffling.

    Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright described the figures as “confusing” and also reported:

    I’m asking the police to give a full report on this to me which will go to the board where we hold them obviously to account.

    Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright is presumably referring to his key decision making body, his business co-ordination board; which meets in private and doesn’t publish any papers in advance. I certainly had no idea that this was where the commissioner “obviously” held the force to account; the papers which are published weeks after the meetings give no indication of any robust challenge.

    Dotty McLeod: If you start saying a rise in reports of sexual offences is good what about the drop in drug offences, the drop in theft, is that bad? Are people not confident at reporting that kind of crime?
    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well that’s probably reflecting the true state of affairs. If you look at those figures…
    Dotty McLeod: Well you can’t really have it both ways Sir Graham. You’re having your cake and eating it.
    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I’m sorry but people aren’t going to report the fact they’re using drugs so we’ve got to use evidence of sort of actually arresting people and investigations.

    Later in the interview we heard:

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I don’t want any crime figures to go up

    This suggests our Police and Crime Commissioner doesn’t want increased reporting.

    Also later in the interview the Police and Crime Commissioner promised the report from the police would be “out in the open once we’ve got it”.

    Dotty McLeod also pushed on the question of if there has been a rise in prosecutions for sexual offences following the rise in reporting. The Police and Crime Commissioner said: “no we haven’t”, raising the question of if there has been any point in people making more reports to the police if they’re not leading to court cases and convictions.

    1. paul Lythgoe

      Laughable response from Sir Graham – when he says he never gives knee jerk responses that certainly doesn’t match with his history while he was an MP. Video nasties etc.. One should really challenge the judgement of a PCC who fails to make sure he is available to respond to the release of crime statistics. He would have known for a long time when these statistics would be published. If he had any competence he would have asked for briefing from the constabulary prior to release to know what to expect – he clearly was too complacent to do so. As ussual waffle and a promise to look into it nothing more…presumably he hopes by next week the news would have moved on. Whilst violent and sexual crime has risen over the last years he has spent his time concentrating on cyclist’s without lights in Cambridge – just shows how out of his depth he has been in his Fen Tory sinecure.
      As for your attempt to interview this proved as always good value – if only the issues he deals with weren’t so serious.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    A report from the Chief Constable to the Police and Crime Commissioner has been published by the Commissioner which comments on these statistics. It’s not clear if this is the response to the commissioner’s request for a report. The commentary is contained within the routine “performance update” presented to the Police and Crime Commissioner’s behind closed doors “business co-ordination board” meeting.

    Chief Constable’s “Performance Update” to the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Business Coordination Board on 25 February 2015.

    While the Police and Crime Commissioner said it was possible to separate out real increases in the rates of certain types of crime from increased reporting (eg. as a result of work done by the police to encourage reporting) the Chief Constable has written:

    Disaggregating each influence is not possible in any meaningful way

    and

    The improvement in victim confidence to report, either as a result of Constabulary led media campaigns or the wider national media activity can be seen in those categories where some of the most vulnerable victims can be found. Disaggregating these influences on overall recorded crime figures cannot be reliably done. It is possible to identify the immediate impact of internally generated media campaigns, however, this is likely to only represent a small proportion of the entire impact.

    The Chief Constable’s report states that while there have been more domestic violence cases reported they are not the only reason for the increase in reported cases of violence against the person:

    The volume of domestic abuse offences can be influential on the violence against the person category. Whilst the absolute number of domestic offences recorded have increased, as a proportion of the violence against the person category we have seen a reduction. Thus it can be inferred that the increase in domestic offences has not been the only influence on the increase in violence against the person

    The Chief Constable ought be able to do more than infer, he ought be able to calculate the increase in domestic violence against the person and non-domestic violence against the person and present those figures.

    The Chief Constable says that greater adherence with the National Crime Recording Standards has caused recorded crime levels to increase.

    This report has taken over the usual “performance update” which I would expect to be a commentary on the latest period’s statistice and would usually cover things like call answering performance, public confidence, hours worked by special constables and many other metrics. It appears this issue of interpreting the Office of National Statistics crime statistics has taken over to the exclusion of everything else.

    I wonder if the report has been hidden under the title “performance update” to try and slow down people’s discovery of it.

    There are no hard statistics provided; just verbose waffle that doesn’t really tell us anything new.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Police and Crime Panel’s meeting scheduled for the 18th of March astonishingly has no agenda item for following up on the questions on the violent crime and hate crime statistics and the discussion on the topic has not been turned into an action point.

    The minutes state the commissioner was asked about the increase in hate crime and was to seek a response from the police on that point; I think, as I have reported above, the questions were broader and included violent crime.

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