The British Crime Survey is published today and the Home Office had prepared for the
worst. For months now, figures close to Theresa May have been expressing their fear that the combination of Ken Clarke’s liberal prisons policy and economic hardship would cause a rise in
crime for which the Home Office, graveyard for so many political careers, would be blamed.
Today’s figures will have eased their disquiet somewhat, insulating them from Labour’s critique that police cuts are endangering society. The headline is that crime in England and Wales has remained stable over the last year, except for a 14 per cent spike in domestic
burglaries according to the British Crime Survey and an alarming 35 per cent increase in domestic violence. The government is cautious, recognising that crime is always too high and reform must
continue; but today’s survey is being spun as an early vindication of its nascent reform programme.
Yet there will still be concerns. The 14 per cent increase in domestic burglaries, on the hand, is more ambiguous. James Brokenshire, the crime minister, insists that introducing street level national crime maps will enable
communities to hold local police forces to account, which should reduce crime. Insurers dissent from his view, arguing that
local people are not reporting crimes such as drug dealing, vehicle theft and vandalism for fear of damaging their area’s reputation, which would inflate their premiums. In this context, it
is notable that the police’s official figures suggest that reported crime has fallen by 100,000 instances over the past year. However, as
today’s survey says, burglary is something that cannot be ignored. Official crime figures are always benighted by arguments over unreported crime. It would be absurd in the extreme if the
government’s reforms are contributing to the problem.