Police officers under investigation over ‘massaged’ crime statistics

Criminal claims he was pushed to falsely admit carrying out 500 burglaries

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The Independent Online

Four police officers are under investigation tonight after a criminal claimed he was falsely persuaded to accept responsibility for 500 burglaries, in the latest crime recording scandal to hit the country’s biggest force.

The system of “taking crimes into consideration” – so-called TICs – which helped the Metropolitan police clear up 6,000 crimes last year, was suspended after “potential vulnerabilities” at Scotland Yard came to light.

The burglar withdrew the claims when his case came to court and made unspecified allegations against the officers when he was questioned, the force said.

The Met has removed the 500 burglaries – spread across a wide area of south and southeast London – from its list of solved crimes while it investigates the claims. The police watchdog confirmed last night that it would supervise an investigation into three detective constables and a sergeant.

After a suspect is charged with a crime, he is routinely taken around the scenes of his alleged break-ins to point out other places he also admits to targeting. This helps lift police crime detection rates and improve intelligence.

Officers usually take lists of unsolved burglary cases to tick them off. The burglary is then listed as solved.

It is understood that there had been such concern within the Metropolitan Police about abuse of the system that senior officers had been asked to consider requiring officers to wear cameras as they interview suspects on tours of crime-hit districts.

The advantage of TICs for the burglar is that he or she is able to “clean the slate” and will not face future prosecution for those offences. However it could mean a longer sentence for having done so.

Jack Dromey, Labour’s shadow policing minister, said: “The public must have confidence in crime statistics. The statistics watchdog Sir Andrew Dilnot has already called into question the Government’s claims that crime is falling. These latest disturbing revelations are evidence that crime stats have been massaged in the Metropolitan Police, giving a misleading picture as to the true levels of crime.”

The Met said that other cases would be removed from its lists of solved crimes if further problems emerged. TICs amounted to 4 per cent of the near 150,000 detected crimes in 2013.

Commander Simon Letchford said the force was considering recording conversations in cars to prevent abuse of the system. “We would like to reassure the public that we take our responsibility to record and investigate crime properly and ethically very seriously,” he said.

The scandal is just the latest blow to the credibility of reported crime statistics that police and the Government have used to trumpet the fall in crime. A series of scandals has shown that the practice of TICs is open to abuse amid allegations that officers encourage offenders to admit to crimes they have not committed.

A Freedom of Information request last weekend revealed that police had asked courts to take more than 100,000 crimes into consideration in three years.

The current crisis over crime statistics was triggered by the arrests of five officers in Kent in 2012 over claims about the manipulation of TICs to meet crime targets.

It led to a series of inquiries that highlighted failings within the crime recording system.

A Scotland Yard officer told MPs last year that officers massaging figures to hit performance targets had been an ingrained part of policing culture. The whistleblower, James Patrick, announced his resignation last week but will remain with the force to face a misconduct hearing after writing a book critical of police service reforms and crime statistics.