We were right to say that crime is not declining in Britain - claim researchers

Criminologists at Teesside University say the inclusion of cyber-offences in official crime statistics provided by the Crime Survey of England and Wales proves that repeated claims of a fall in crime have long been misleading.

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Professors Steve Hall and Simon Winlow.

Professors Steve Hall and Simon Winlow.

Professors Steve Hall and Simon Winlow have argued for many years that crime has not declined, but is in fact mutating, with more offences taking place online.

For the first time, an estimate of online and cybercrime has been included in the headline crime figure in England and Wales - casting doubt over long-standing claims of a decline in offending over the last 20 years.

Upwards of five million incidents of online fraud and 2.5 million other cybercrimes have been estimated to have taken place last year. The survey also shows a rise in violent crime.

Professors Hall and Winlow are the co-founders of the Teesside Centre for Realist Criminology, which examines the changing nature of crime and the social harms and injustices that beset the world today.

The pair have continuously stated that official crime figures are misleading and they welcomed the inclusion of cyber offences in official crime statistics - calling for a new approach to recording crime.

'It is clear that criminal markets are changing, and they’re changing in ways that are leaving traditional policing methods trailing in the dust,' said Professor Hall.

'Lots of criminal markets have migrated from street corners to the internet, and the police simply haven’t got the resources to keep up.

'We have been saying for a long time that official statistics are unreliable and the face of crime is changing. Although some traditional crimes have declined, the long-standing narrative of a continuous reduction in overall crime since the mid-1990s is simply not true.'

Professor Winlow says that we continue to experience a broad assortment of social harms that exist beyond the reach of the modern criminal justice system.

'It is ridiculous to believe that because we are being told of a continuous statistical reduction in crime that we are living in a safer, more civilised society,' said Professor Winlow.

'Crime isn’t going away, it is just taking on different forms. We were right to question this narrative and to suggest that Britain is instead becoming a more violent and unstable place.'

The surge in recorded offences, argues Professor Hall, undermines the Government’s claim that cutting 17,000 police officers was justified by the fall in crime.

He added: 'Of course these latest figures are taken from a telephone survey, which, although better than the now discredited police statistics, is nevertheless still an unreliable method. We need more effective research methods such as online ethnography, currently used by our researchers at the Centre, to create a more accurate account of crime in today’s world.'

Teesside University has a long established international reputation for research excellence in criminology and the Teesside Centre for Realist Criminology was set up in September 2013. Members are interested in constructing new and more revealing accounts of crime, violence, social harm and criminal justice.

Two of the Centre’s researchers, Professor Georgios Antonopoulos and Dr Alex Hall, are currently involved in a pioneering international study examining the global online trade in fake medicines. It is funded by the European Commission and one of the most important studies into new forms of cybercrime.

16 October 2015

In the News

Cyber offences on rise as total crimes double in a year
Daily Telegraph, 16/10/2015; The Independent, 16/10/2015
Professor Steve Hall, a criminologist at Teesside University, comments on the rising level of violence and cyber crime in England and Wales.