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Better information and stronger accountability will improve police performance...
Better information and stronger accountability will improve police performance

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

selected crimes per 1,000 population as the safest towns such as Southend and


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: 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.

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