“Does the prime minister regret cutting 21,000 police officers?”
That’s what Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
We assume Mr Corbyn is referring to changes in officer numbers in England and Wales since 2010.
He made a similar claim during last year’s election campaign. FactCheck found that he was correct.
And the latest figures show that today’s claim is also accurate: the number of police officers in England and Wales fell further between March 2016 and March 2017, meaning a net loss of 20,592 officers since 2010.
That said, it’s worth reminding Mr Corbyn that while central government ultimately funds police budgets, the number of police on the streets is for local Police and Crime Commissioners to decide (within budget constraints).
Mr Corbyn is right that there are 21,000 fewer police officers in England and Wales today than there were in 2010.
“Recorded crime is up by a fifth since 2010”
Recorded crime refers to crimes recorded by the police. But as regular FactCheck readers may remember, there are two measures of crime: police recorded crime and the Crime Survey of England and Wales.
It’s true that the number of police recorded crimes has gone up by about a fifth (22 per cent in fact) since 2010. In 2010, the police recorded 4.4 million crimes; in 2017, they recorded 5.3 million.
But as the Office for National Statistics points out, “police recorded crime figures do not provide a reliable measure of trends in crime” and “must be interpreted with caution.”
“The police can only record crimes that are brought to their attention and for many types of offence these data cannot provide a reliable measure of levels or trends.”
Recorded crime figures are considered so unreliable in fact that they had their status as a “national statistic” removed in 2014.
The other main source of crime information is the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which shows that crime has been falling since the 1990s. It measures slightly different types of crime to the police recorded statistics (for example, the Survey doesn’t include murders). But unlike police figures, the Crime Survey has retained its status as a national statistic.
Commenting on the latest figures, Mark Bangs from the ONS said the statistics “indicate that levels of crime have continued to fall compared with the previous year, but this picture varied across different types of crime and not all offence types showed falls.”
“While overall levels of violent crime were not increasing, there is evidence of rises having occurred in some of the low incidence but more harmful categories such as knife and gun crime.”
Mr Corbyn’s claim that police recorded crime has risen by a fifth since 2010 is technically correct. But that is only one, highly disputed, measure of crime.
When we look at the Crime Survey, which is much more statistically reliable, we can see that crime, including many categories of violent crime, is falling – continuing a downward trend that began in the 1990s.