Recorded crime across Devon and Cornwall continues to fall, new figures announced today, Thursday, January 23, reveal, however concerns remain about the reliability of data.

Overall crime between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 fell by 2.6 per cent – a reduction of 2,235 crimes.

The Force has continued to see reductions in dwelling burglary, (down 8.6 per cent), non-dwelling burglary, (down 11.7 per cent), and vehicle offences, (down 14.3 per cent), and criminal damage, (down 9.8 per cent).

The region has also seen some areas of crime rise. This includes violence without injury, (up 13.1 per cent), public order offences, (up 18.4 per cent), and sexual offences, (up 11.7 per cent).

The new figures come at the same time as historic national figures which relate to crime in Devon and Cornwall to the end of September 2013.

Recorded crime, (01/01/13 – 31/12/13)

  • Overall – 85267 crimes down from 87502, (-2.6 per cent)
  • Robbery – 360 crimes down from 418, (-13.9 per cent)
  • Burglary dwelling – 3155 crimes down from 3451, (-8.6 per cent)
  • Burglary non-dwelling – 4415 crimes down from 5000, (- 11.7 per cent)
  • Vehicle offences – 5667 crimes down from 6616 – (-14.3 per cent down)
  • Rape – 712 crimes up from 678, (+ 5 per cent)
  • Other sexual offences – 1389 crimes up from 1244, (+11.7 per cent)
  • Criminal damage – 14626 crimes down from 16207, (-9.8 per cent)
  • Shoplifting – 7763 crimes up from 7237, (+7.3 per cent)

Concerns have recently been raised by the police watchdog that there is “almost certain that some manipulation is going on” in the recording of crime statistics by officers.

Tom Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, has told the Home Affairs Select Committee, “in anything that gets measured” there is an “incentive, resisted by many, to manipulate the process to make your own performance look good”.

The gold-standard "national statistics" status has also been withdrawn from police recorded crime figures following repeated allegations that published figures have been subject to "a degree of fiddling".

The UK Statistics Authority said the withdrawal was due to "accumulating evidence" that underlying data on crimes recorded by the police may be unreliable.

The removal of the designation of national statistics will remain until the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Home Office, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and others, was "able to demonstrate that the quality of the underlying crime data was sufficient to meet the needs of users".

The UK’s statistics watchdog has also revealed there has been no proper audit of the figures recorded by the police for five years.

Devon and Cornwall Deputy Chief Constable Bill Skelly has welcomed the continued fall in crime, but acknowledged the figures also showed areas needing further understanding and action.

He said: “Crime figures are just one way in which we monitor our performance in order to make our communities safer.

“These figures show Devon and Cornwall remains a safe place to live, work and visit. We want this to remain the case and victims to be at heart of everything we do.

“However, reducing crime and making our communities safer is not just about having low crime figures. We know there are areas where we can work with partners and improve people’s quality of life which might not be reflected in crime statistics.

“A small rise in crime in some areas does not make Devon and Cornwall less safe, but none the less, we have to constantly observe crime trends to reduce offences and work with our partners to deal with the root cause of them as soon as possible.”

The summer period saw a rise in crime in some areas with more than 10 million people estimated to have been in the Devon and Cornwall region at times – compared to a resident winter population well below 2 million.

Dep Ch Const Skelly added: “There is no doubt that summer policing is a challenge for the Force with no extra resource, but there is other things we need to focus on with partners in terms of health, well being and looking at reducing the causes of crime.

“Alcohol is undoubtedly a factor in a large proportion of crime and looking at how and why people drink and then become involved in with the police, NHS and other agencies is critical.

“We estimate alcohol to be involved in at least 35 per cent of violent crime, so the consumption, licensing and selling of alcohol is having a huge impact on the communities of Devon and Cornwall.

“There is already extensive work going on with partners and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to look at how this can be most effectively managed.

“There is no doubt that violent and sexual offences are aggravated and at times caused by alcohol, and that it also impacts heavily on areas such as domestic abuse”

He added: “Helping and protecting vulnerable people in our communities is hugely important along with understanding how we can do this more effectively in collaboration whenever possible with partners .

“And communities are also being blighted by offences such as shoplifting and bilking, which although they might be on the lower scale in terms of financial value, have a huge impact on small business.

“As a Force we remain committed to working closer than ever with partners and communities to problem solve and do whatever possible to help those communities we serve.”