What riots? Crime stats ignore summer disorder

 

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The Independent Online

They were the worst riots to hit British cities in a generation. Thousands took to the streets burning, looting and causing hundreds of millions of pounds of damage.

But according to the monthly August crime figures published on Government internet crime maps, it is as if trouble in some of the worst-hit areas never happened.

The number of incidents in parts of London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham either fell, stayed the same or rose slightly bet-ween July and August when the riots took place, The Independent has found.

Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, where hundreds of officers were deployed to deal with some of the worst trouble, denied trying to "airbrush" the riots from the force's crime statistics and said the figures showed crime trends needed to be analysed in the long term.

Scotland Yard insisted it was following Home Office rules. Under the guidelines, a crime carried out by 10 people against one business is recorded as a single incident.

Since its launch in February, the police.uk website has attracted 420 million hits. It was described by Nick Herbert, the Police Minister, as a "very important step in accountability and transparency". However, the new figures could cast doubt on its usefulness.

In Manchester's St Ann's Square, scene of some of the worst violence, the site records the lowest level of crime for four months, with 21 incidents. While overall the city centre recorded a rise in August, the figure of 1,828 street-level offences was only 10 above April and 12 more than in February.

In Birmingham, where more than 100 people were arrested when mobs stormed the Bullring, the site records 1,489 street-level crimes – down 40 compared with July. And while witnesses likened the rioting in Bristol to an "end-of-the-world movie" the number of offences recorded was static at 2,014. It is the same in Toxteth, Liverpool.

According to the Metropolitan Police's crime mapping site, offences fell by one in the Reeves Corner area of Croydon, where a furniture shop was set alight. Tottenham Hale retail park, which was another target for rioters, recorded seven more crimes – although Tottenham High Street, where the trouble began, recorded a rise from 83 to 149.

Mr Fahy said his force had recorded 242 crimes in the city centre and 139 in Salford linked to the disorder. "It is plain silly to try to assess the impact of the riots in terms of the number of individual crimes that were committed," he said.

A Home Office spokesman said; "Crime maps are designed to give people regular, easily accessible, street-level information about crime."