Rising crime figures reflect growing confidence to report offences like historic child sex abuse, says Bedfordshire PCC

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway addresses a public meeting at the Old Co

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway addresses a public meeting at the Old Court House in Biggleswade. - Credit: Archant

Higher crime figures are “a double-edged sword” at least partly reflecting a growing confidence to contact officers – that’s according to Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner.

Kathryn Holloway has said it is “common sense” that a national trend in rising robbery, burglary and violent crime is down to a lack of neighbourhood policing – with Home Office data indicating the number of police officers nationally is at its lowest since 1985.

But commenting on the Office for National Statistics’ new study claiming to show the highest rise in recorded crime nationwide for a decade, Mrs Holloway said that increases in reports of rape and historic child sex abuse perhaps showed not that crime was on the rise, but that victims were now more likely to contact police rather than remain “hidden”.

“Ten years ago public confidence to report crimes like hate crime and, especially, sexual crimes like rape and historic child sex abuse meant we had far more hidden victims,” she said.

“It’s generally accepted in modern policing, in 2017, that if your recording of crimes like these is going up, the public have a higher level of trust in you – so this study is absolutely genuinely a double-edged sword.”

Citing a rise in robberies and burglaries in Bedfordshire, she added: “You cannot strip neighbourhood policing out of a county like ours – as happened four years ago – and not face the consequences down the line.

“That’s precisely why the chief constable and I are trying to wring every penny out of our budget and increase the frontline by almost 10 per cent by April next year.

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“I cannot wave a wand to produce more police without the money to pay for them, though I’m incredibly proud to have recruited 96 new officers over the last financial year and 100 more this year.”

Mrs Holloway refused to fall back on the Crime Survey of England and Wales – which has claimed that crime is falling, based on interviews with 38,000 members of the public – and said she was more interested in improving things than quibbling over figures.

She added that 10 years ago nobody would have forecast the need to spend more than £1 million on a new cyber-crime unit, or the rise of new phenomena like ‘revenge porn’ – the use of sexual images of former partners to blackmail or humiliate them.

According to the ONS, crime in England and Wales has seen its largest annual rise in a decade – with the total number of crimes reported to and by police increasing by 10 per cent between April 2016 and March 2017 to almost five million.

Violent crime was up by 18 per cent, robbery by 16 per cent and sexual offences by 14 per cent.