A question mark has been raised over crime figures released by Devon and Cornwall Police.

While the force says crime has dropped by 5.5 per cent in the last nine months, figures from the ONS show offences in the two counties had risen by 5 per cent in the year to September 2012, the highest rate of any police force in England and Wales.

This follows a six per cent rise in crime for 2011-12, double the rate of any other police force. 

Police say that their figures reveal that there were 4,054 fewer recorded crimes between April 1, 2012 and January 20, 2013, compared to the same period in 2011/12.

They say that robbery has decreased by 20.4 per cent and vehicle crime by 11.1 per cent, domestic burglary by 23.9 per cent, meaning there have been 847 fewer victims of this type of crime in the past nine months.

Assistant Chief Constable for crime and justice Chris Boarland said, “Devon and Cornwall remains a safe place, but these latest figures from April 2012 show an encouraging drop as a result of the targeted work going on to reduce crime and the fear of crime.

“Devon and Cornwall Police aim to be the best rural, urban and coastal force in the country and these latest results show we are heading in the right direction.

“These results show how our staff are working with communities to make them safer. In the current financial climate we have to look at different ways of achieving our goals and working more effectively with less whilst keeping victims at the forefront of our plans.

“It isn’t easy for any of our staff, but these results show a clear commitment to succeed.”

Despite substantial reductions from April 2012 to January 2013, there has been a rise in sexual offences.

Sexual offences have increased by 5.1 per cent between April and January – an increase of 77 offences.

However the timing and discrepancy between the two sets of figures has been questioned, with one MP saying it undermines public confidence if police are more concerned with spin and presentation than "proper operational management".

Andrew George said: "Coincidentally, the force has put out figures, over a different period, which manage to present a more positive image than the ones from the official statisticians."

"What is most concerning is what appears to be a degree of cynicism on the part of the constabulary rather than a small fluctuation in the statistics."

Police-recorded crime figures have come under scrutiny after they reported a crime rate fall of almost twice the rate of the crime survey of England and Wales (CSEW) over the last five years.

Police records appeared to "overstate the true rate at which crime has been falling" by failing to take into account 400,000 offences in that five-year time, according to an analysis by the ONS.

The ONS listed a number of reasons that could be behind the discrepency, including a culture of hitting targets and a rise in business or retail crime that went under-reported.


Related link: Sex crimes up as overall crime falls