A new report today reveals huge variations in urban crime rates across the country
with Nottingham, the highest crime urban area, recording four times the number of
The report, Urban Crime Rankings, by the independent think tank Reform, uses new data obtained from police forces by Freedom of Information requests on seven offences: murder, rape, assault, burglary, robbery, vehicle crime and gun crime. It argues that more intelligible statistics and new models of accountability will increase local pressure for better police performance in high crime cities and towns.
Reporting of crime in England and Wales is dominated by the annual national crime
statistics which have shown falls over the last decade. But these mask dramatic
local variations in each of the crimes surveyed. In December 2005 the Statistics
Commission criticised existing crime statistics. The Reform report uses an American
model of reporting with the aim of presenting urban crime statistics that are easily
comprehensible to the public.
The findings suggest that the Home Office's key target - that the crime in high crime areas should fall more quickly than in other areas - is insufficiently challenging. It is, however, local rather than central initiatives that will have the greatest impact on crime and it is hoped that the findings will focus attention on police performance in urban areas such as Nottingham, Leeds and Stockport. The US model for the Reform report has led directly to improved performance in Camden, New Jersey which has led the American city crime rankings for the last two years.
The report's key points are:
The publication of information is a key means to improve the performance of public services.
The performance of public law and order agencies in England and Wales needs improvement. Despite recent falls, on the latest survey crime remains amongst the highest in the developed world. The Cabinet Office Strategy Unit has
described England and Wales' performance on violent crime as a 'weakness'
compared to other countries.
Accurate, relevant and easily intelligible local data on crime would put pressure on police forces to improve. At present, however, such data is not available. The independent Statistics Commission has recently criticised the crime statistics for England and Wales.
A better way to present statistics on crime may be to measure crime by city. Cities are understandable geographical units in a way that local authority areas or police force areas are not. They also contain the highest levels of crime.
Reform has compiled data on levels of recorded crime in 2005 for each city in England and Wales with a population of over 100,000. Information where
necessary for specific offences was obtained using Freedom of Information
requests to police forces.
The results produced the following key findings:
- Dramatic variation between the best and worst performers. At 115.5 crimes
per 1,000 population, Nottingham had almost four times the level of crime as
the safest towns in the rankings: Southend, which recorded 30.9 crimes per
1,000 population, and Poole, with 32.7 crime per 1,000 populations.
- Dramatic variation between towns of similar size. Nottingham's crime rate of
111.5 crimes per 1,000 population can be contrasted with the much better
performance of towns of around 250,000 people such as Wolverhampton
(49.1/1,000) or Reading (43.4/1,000).
- Dramatic variation in each of the seven selected crimes.
The results also confirm a wide variation between the safest boroughs in the
Capital (Sutton, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond), and the most dangerous
(Westminster, Hackney, Islington and Southwark).
Improved police performance would also be greatly accelerated if the police were
made more clearly accountable for their performance. Reform has previously
argued that local police authorities do not make forces accountable to their
communities, with the result that there is little incentive to improve performance.
New forms of accountability should drive the change in police performance that
many British cities need.
Blair Gibbs, co-author of the report said: 'The government's key message that
crime has been falling masks a huge variation between the safest and most
dangerous urban areas. Better information and improved policing based on
direct accountability to local communities is urgently needed to drive down
crime and increase public safety.'
Andrew Haldenby, director of Reform said: 'The publication of better
information is a key means to improve the performance of public services. For
services such as health and education, it allows users to exercise choice
between providers. For services such as policing, where choice does not
apply, it allows local communities to compare the performance of different
police units and to demand better performance.'
1. Reform is an independent, non-party think tank whose mission is to set out a
better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity. We believe that by
liberalising the public sector, breaking monopoly and extending choice, high quality
services can be made available for everyone.
2. The report is available at:
http:www.reform.co.uk/filestore/pdf/Urban crime rankings, Reform, 2
3. The report is co-authored by Blair Gibbs and Andrew Haldenby
Blair Gibbs is the Crime Research Officer at Reform. He studied at Merton
College Oxford before joining Reform in March 2005.
Andrew Haldenby is Director of Reform. He established Reform with Nick
Herbert in 2001.
4. The data for this report was gathered by a full-scale data request under the powers provided for in the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA, 2000). For London, detailed, monthly data is already published by the Metropolitan Police. The number of recorded offences in each category for the area in question was used to compile
individual rankings for each type of crime. The total number of crimes for all the
categories surveyed was then summed for each city and the outcome converted into
a rate per 1,000 population for the final 'score'. The data has not been modified in
any other way to take account of context (for example, levels of deprivation or
economic performance), or any recording or reporting variations.