POLICE in the region are coming under “massive pressure” not to record all crime incidents, a police federation boss has claimed amid fears that falling crime figures are misleading.
The comments from Cleveland Police Federation chair Steve Matthews support national concerns that budget cuts and pressure to hit targets have prompted police officers to exaggerate the rate at which crime has fallen in the last five years.
Figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that recorded crime was down eight per cent in the North-East in the year to September 2012, compared to the previous 12 months.
Crime was down five per cent in the Cleveland Police area, nine per cent in Durham and ten per cent in Northumbria.
In North Yorkshire, the annual report showed a nine per cent drop in recorded crime.
The figures reveal that almost every type of crime fell in all four police areas in the region, with one of the few exceptions being fraud and forgery which increased in Cleveland and North Yorkshire.
However, Mr Matthews claimed the newly released figures for his force were not a true reflection of the levels of crime in the area.
He added: “There’s massive pressure on officers not to take reports of crime and I find that really worrying.
“I don’t want to worry the people of Cleveland but I think we’ve got to be honest and realistic about what’s happening.”
Cleveland Police announced a reorganisation earlier this week with 300 officers due to go by 2014.
Mr Matthews added: “If there are fewer boots on the ground you’re reported incidents are not going to be as high because you will have fewer people looking out for inquisitive crime.”
In response, Cleveland Police Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Roberts said crime recording was “heavily regulated and frequently audited”.
He added: “The context of the police federation’s comments is an understandable concern about the impact of falling police officer numbers, but there is no evidence of practices in Cleveland having changed, and I am totally clear with all officers that crime needs to be recorded ethically and in accordance with the national rules: integrity is non-negotiable.
“It is also fair to say that none of the concerns now expressed have been raised by the federation with me, despite recent opportunities to do so, and I am surprised at their questioning the integrity of their members.”
Nationally, police records have appeared to overstate the true rate at which crime has been falling by failing to take into account 400,000 offences, the ONS said.
A target culture was behind the discrepancy as police officers come under an informal pressure to slash crime, ONS experts claimed.
Labour yesterday called for reassurance that spending cuts were not behind the fall in recorded offences - but the Coalition insisted police forces had reduced crime on lower budgets.