CRIB - accuracy

Meeting: 
MQT on 2012-09-19
Session date: 
September 19, 2012
Reference: 
2012/2480
Question By: 
Tony Arbour
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Before we praise or criticise any changes in a borough' crime figures, should we always first verify the accuracy of its figures?

Answer

Answer for CRIB - accuracy

Answer for CRIB - accuracy

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, I agree completely, Tony, that we need to have an accurate set of figures and that is what the Crime Recording and Investigation Bureau (CRIB) is there to do and so far there has been a reduction in the variations of crime reporting across London.

Tony Arbour (AM): Can I draw your attention, Mr Mayor, to some of the failings of this new measure. Most of the crime which is recorded comes in via the telephone and the people who answer the calls tend to classify the crime without actually probing. Can I give you a couple of simple examples? The reason I raise this is it is really quite important to you and all of us here. When you get variations of statistics, particularly statistics which vary from a long-term mean, and as long as I can remember Richmond has been the safest borough in London and recently it has slipped from that particular place and I have discovered that the telephone people, the investigation bureau, classified as 'theft' lost mobile phones in public houses and indeed a quarter of all other thefts, i.e. opposed to thefts from shops and things of that kind, were misplaced telephones in public houses which were subsequently found. Nevertheless, that went onto the borough's crime statistics and what I am suggesting to you is that you ensure that there is rigorous examination by the call-handlers to ensure that crimes are properly recorded; otherwise it suggests that places which were hitherto safe appear to be hotspots for crime.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Obviously there is a decision to made about classification of these thefts and the Crime Reporting Investigation Bureau is there to try to reach some sort of standardisation. If what you say is true then it is a cause for hope, that there is in fact even less theft in Richmond than we previously thought.

Tony Arbour (AM): No, no, Mr Mayor, that is not the way to approach it. The way to approach it is to ensure that there is appropriate questioning when the telephone call comes in as to precisely what is the crime that is recorded. What I am suggesting is happening is that the call-handlers, because it is much easier, 'Oh, you say you have had your telephone stolen' and they register it as a stolen phone without making further enquiries. If I can give you another example, perhaps more frivolous, but nevertheless went onto our statistics. There was some food stuck onto the outside of a car which was classified as criminal damage; manifestly that was not a crime. Can I draw your attention please to another area where the statistics are manifestly --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What sort of food?

Tony Arbour (AM): I believe it was fast because it was a sports car.

All: Oh!

Tony Arbour (AM): Can I draw your attention really to a more serious aspect of crime classification. Until now people who believed that they were being oppressed on Facebook and they complained about that, that was hitherto classified as being a malicious communication, which is not a notifiable crime. The new Crime Investigation Bureau has now changed that from malicious communication to the crime of harassment and more than half of the cases of harassment which were reported again in this borough was criticism of someone on Facebook. Now, manifestly that is not a crime. Do you not think that this again is something where you can use your very considerable powers of persuasion to suggest to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) that there is some considerable investigation, and I would have thought it would not take more than a couple of minutes when a crime is being reported to find out precisely what is the crime that is being reported and seeing that it is properly classified.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not certain that you are entirely right there, Tony, on that last one because as far as I know, I do not use Facebook myself, but I think there is a new anxiety about cyber bullying, or whatever it is called, and new technology produces new offences and new possibilities for crime. I think we have to face the fact that there may be some problems to do with that kind of behaviour that maybe should be classified as criminal. So, I am afraid I am not just going to sit here and rule out the possibility that there can be an offence of that description.

Tony Arbour (AM): Well, obviously you are right and I sit as a Magistrate and I have seen very unpleasant cases of cyber bullying but the kind of cases which I am referring to is just a mention, somebody has 'big ears ... .lol'

What I am saying to you is this, that in a zeal to satisfy residents who believe that somehow or another they have been damaged and therefore they think that the police should investigate that we really should have some kind of proper filtering. As I have said to you right at the very beginning, the reason I raise the matter --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, I think it is a very good point.

Tony Arbour (AM): The reason I raise the matter is that it can lead to the substantial distortion of crime figures.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Your point is made loud and clear, Tony. I am very grateful. I think the CRIB will be looking at how they can make sure that people do ask the right kind of questions to get the right data so that we do not misclassify crimes and particularly we do not over-report crimes where none has taken place and I think most people will take from what you say a broadly reassuring message that perhaps sometimes things are reported as crimes when they were not.

Tony Arbour (AM): Thank you, Chairman.

Darren Johnson (Chair): Thank you. We will then move onto the next question on the order paper in the name of Joanne McCartney on police front counters.